Believe Kathryn Mayorga: Why did banner with name of woman who accused Ronaldo of rape fly over Old Trafford yesterday?

The feminist campaign group Level Up was responsible for the banner

On Saturday, a banner flew over Old Trafford stadium to coincide with Christiano Ronaldo’s first game back at Manchester United, serving to remind fans of allegations of sexual assault against the footballer.

The banner, which stated: “Believe Kathryn Mayorga” and was organised by feminist campaign group Level Up, was in reference to the woman who accused Ronaldo of rape in 2009.

Ronaldo has always denied the allegations, tweeting in 2018: “I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in.

“Keen as I may be to clear my name, I refuse to feed the media spectacle created by people seeking to promote themselves at my expense.”

Here’s everything you need to know about the case.

Who is Kathryn Mayorga?

Mayorga, 36, is an ex-model and school teacher from Las Vegas.

At the time of the alleged sexual assault, she was working as a hostess at the Rain nightclub in Las Vegas, based at the Palms Casino Resort.

What are her accusations against Ronaldo?

Mayorga met Ronaldo at Rain nightclub on 12 June, 2009. She was pictured with him in several paparazzi photos.

She has claimed that the Portuguese footballer assaulted her that night in a hotel suite.

The following day, Mayorga reported the allegations to the Las Vegas police but initially declined to identify the perpetrator, referring to him only as an “athlete” and “public figure”.

She also underwent a rape kit examination at a local hospital later that day.

No criminal charges were filed after Las Vegas prosecutors decided the allegations “cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt”.

In January 2010, the footballer agreed to pay $375,000 (around £270,000) to Mayorga, who, in return, could not publicly discuss the allegations.

The settlement came to light in 2019 but Ronaldo’s lawyers insisted that it was “by no means a confession of guilt”.

They added: “What happened was simply that Cristiano Ronaldo merely followed the advice of his advisors in order to put an end to the outrageous accusations made against him, in order precisely to avoid attempts, such as those we are now witnessing, to destroy a reputation built thanks to hard work, athletic ability and behavioural correction.”

What’s the latest with the case?

The allegations only surfaced in 2017, when German newspaper Der Spiegel published them, referring to Mayorga as “Susan K”.

In 2018, the model waved her anonymity and hired a lawyer to pursue a civil lawsuit against Ronaldo.

Her lawyer, Larissa Drohobyczer, told a press conference in Las Vegas that year that the model had suffered severe emotional and mental damage since the alleged assault and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Now, Mayorga is claiming for £56m in damages, withThe Mirror reporting that newly released court documents reveal Mayorga wants £18m for “past pain and suffering, £18m for “future pain and suffering” and £18m in punitive damages, as well as a further £1.5m to cover her legal costs.

Why did Level Up fly a banner over Old Trafford?

The banner appeared five minutes into Manchester United’s game against Newcastle on Saturday.

Janey Starling, co-director of Level Up, said that the intention was to tackle the “culture of silence” surrounding Mayorga’s allegations.

“Manchester United has welcomed Cristiano like a hero, and created a culture of silence about the rape allegations made against him,” she said. “That ends today.”

The organisation has also launched a petition on its website calling for people to sign a solidarity pledge to indicate their support of Mayorga.

“This is not just about solidarity with Kathryn, it’s about every single survivor of sexual violence,” the pledge states. “It’s about breaking the silence around abuse, and speaking truth to power.”

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