Cristiano Ronaldo

In April 2017, German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on 2009 allegations of sexual assault against soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, based on documents from whistleblower platform FootballLeaks that included a letter from the woman in question accusing Ronaldo of rape and a “Settlement Memorialization” where Ronaldo agreed to pay her $375,000 in exchange for her to drop all criminal charges and never discuss the event.

On Friday, Der Spiegel published a new story with the woman in question (Kathryn Mayorga) coming forward publicly for the first time, and noting that her lawyer is questioning the validity of the settlement in a Nevada court (the events in question took place in Las Vegas in June 2009). But that’s not the only legal action here; as per Reuters (via Eurosport), Ronaldo’s agent has said the soccer player’s lawyers are going to sue the magazine.

Lawyers for Cristiano Ronaldo said on Friday they would sue German magazine Der Spiegel after it published “blatantly illegal” accusations by an American woman who alleges she was raped by the Portuguese soccer star in 2009.

Ronaldo’s lawyer Christian Schertz said in a statement the report was “an inadmissible reporting of suspicions in the area of privacy”, and that he would seek legal redress for his client from the magazine.

…The statement was sent to Reuters by Ronaldo’s agent Gestifute in response to a request for comment on the Der Spiegel story. Gestifute did not answer any specific questions about the content of the Der Spiegel report, which Reuters was unable to independently verify.

That Reuters story also includes Der Spiegel deputy editor in chief Alfred Weinzierl saying that his magazine had repeatedly reached out to Ronaldo’s management for comment before publication, including with written questions, but “there were no answers.”

This seems likely to turn into a mess on several levels, especially considering the various countries involved; even if Mayorga’s lawyer finds success in court in Nevada and gets a ruling that the non-disclosure provisions of that settlement are not valid under U.S. law, that’s not necessarily going to lead to a successful defense for a German publication in a lawsuit from a Portuguese soccer star playing in Italy. And it’s notable that Schertz particularly touches on privacy and not just defamation, as there have been several successful European lawsuits over invasion of privacy. Whether this meets those criteria or not is to be determined, but it’s interesting to hear Ronaldo’s lawyers come out guns blazing here.

Of course, many threats to sue never come true, and there’s good reason for that, especially when it comes to lawsuits against media outlets. For one thing, a prolonged lawsuit could give this story even more exposure and cause further trouble for Ronaldo and his endorsements, and for another, a lawsuit might lead to the magazine digging up further facts Ronaldo doesn’t want out there in discovery. We’ll see what comes of this, but it definitely seems likely to be a significant story for a while.

Update: Der Spiegel‘s Christoph Winterbach responded to this with a long Twitter thread illustrating the magazine’s detailed reporting process and questioning elements of Ronaldo’s response.


About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.