Cristiano Ronaldo: Why isn't this the biggest sport story in the world?

What the press conference for a case of this nature involving arguably the best known sportsperson on the planet should look and feel like is hard to answer - but it's sure not this

Ewan Mackenna
Las Vegas
@EwanMacKenna
Thursday 04 October 2018 21:15
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Lawyer: Ronaldo accuser was mentally 'incompetent' to reach non-disclosure deal

So this is the biggest sports story there is right now.

A drive away from what we imagine when considering both the dazzling and depressing beating heart of Las Vegas, a nondescript part of town goes on forever across the plains towards the mountains. It's like the sort of place people come to buy lumber or hardware supplies. Or, if you are so inclined, three giant bottles of Centrum vitamins minus their tamper-proof paper and all for only five bucks according to the kerb-side soul in need of whatever cash he can get his hands on.

The woman in the shop quite literally across the road cannot provide an answer as to where Stovall & Associates are based. And no one knows what's going on there. For shame.

Finally, the lonely, tell-tale satellite dish on a news truck peeking out from behind a wall is the giveaway although it's still distinctly small time. What the press conference for a case of this nature involving arguably the best known sportsperson on the planet should look and feel like is hard to answer. But it's sure not this.

In the sporting sphere, come World Cups, some journalists with face-paint of nations that aren't always their own jostle for position near stars to ask fawning questions in an embarrassment to their profession. As another example of this attitude, take two years ago on the night Usain Bolt ran the 100-metre final at the Rio Olympics, as some with press passes nearly caused a crush to get in first. The problem with hero worship I feel is accountability, as truth and such status don't always sit comfortably together, and that troubles me at moments like this.

It means maybe 30 people labour into this pokey law practice to hear the legal team of Kathryn Mayorga lay out the pain their client says she is in and has been in for close to a decade due to the alleged actions of Cristiano Ronaldo. Crucially they are here to go through what they want to do about it and their desire for consequences.

So this is the biggest sports story there is right now. Well at least it ought to be for that very reason.

There are a couple obvious factors as to why it's so subdued however, and they are stomach-churning at best yet unavoidable. The first is the celebrity culture of a sickly modern society where people ally their self-confidence and self-worth to some person that is cashing in on them. A trip to social media since the whispers around this started in recent weeks lets the mask down on what many people really think. The support for Ronaldo oozes, all seemingly because he's famous and talented, and crucially because he's recognisable.

It makes you think of the courage of Mayorga if her claims are true.

The other reason for this being largely bypassed at a time where so much nonsense is instantly blown out of proportion is equally depressing. Looming large just three miles down the freeway is the reflective gold and vulgar glass entombing a giant tower, isolated and intimidating. In big letter across the top it reads TRUMP. If the tone of America is set from the top and the tone of the world is set from America, then there are consequences for the direction society has been allowed go and this could be a microcosm of all that. On Tuesday night for instance, an adoring crowd cheered on their president as he mocked Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who dared to accuse his Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault - which he denies.

Mayorga's lawyers addressed the media on Wednesday 

After that hearing last Friday into alleged assault back in her high school days, Senator Orrin Hatch when asked about Blasey Ford's testimony responded with, "I think she's an attractive, good witness" and when asked to clarify the remark he added without shame, "Oh, in other words she is pleasing". Lindsey Graham called it "the most unethical sham since I've been in politics". It's as if the Me-Too movement was a grouping that had stepped out of line, and the punishment was to be driven back and then some.

It seems that Mayorga is in that firing line next for making serious claims against Ronaldo - which he has vigorously denied. Her lawyer Leslie Mark Stovall has to explain to those in attendance that his client isn't present because of the pressure of mass media attention. The great comedian George Carlin always said that the best humour and observation was there to draw attention to the worst ills although it's difficult here to find anything uplifting in this cramped and sweaty room.

Those who came didn't even have to produce credentials such is a the laxity around this seriousness. But if you drill down into this case, it's hard to get over the details of the claims that emerged thanks to the brilliant, important and overlooked work of Der Spiegel and the subsequent civil claim issued by Mayorga. This is what has been suggested so far.

Cristiano Ronaldo dismisses claims he raped woman in Las Vegas hotel as ‘fake news’

One. Mayorga claims she was sexually assaulted by Ronaldo in June 2009. She then says she went to the police and a hospital for a medical examination the same day.

Two. Earlier that night, she had been pictured with Ronaldo at a party in the Palms Casino resort and went with him and others to his penthouse.

Three. It's claimed that in response to written questions posed by a "fixer" engaged by Ronaldo he allegedly answered: "She said no and stop several times."

Four. Shortly after, he allegedly paid her $375,000, the equivalent of a week's wages when at Real Madrid, via a non-disclosure agreement.

Five. After her claims became public last month, Ronaldo called them ‘fake news’. He also denied them on Twitter and said his conscience is clear.

Ronaldo strenuously denies the claims against him 

Her damning list of claims is put to Stovall, who stands at the top of the room, his grey ponytail pulled back tight so that it looks as if he may moonlight as a magician or lion tamer come nightfall, but he says he cannot speak for the defence. He does outline how they plan to go about this while talking about what he believes the Las Vegas Police Department didn't seem to do in terms of basic procedure and how his client wasn't mentally fit to sign a non-disclosure agreement thus it should not be binding. That is the crux of what happens from here on.

Patiently Stovall goes around the room, asking if there are any more questions and a trickle come. Some are about technicalities. Some are about how the summons is in the system but it may take two months to serve the Juventus player. I can’t help but feel uncomfortable when other questions are posed about why his client didn't leave the room and why she is unearthing what was buried and why she took money and why she isn't here.

After an hour it's all over and it's back past the Trump Tower and towards the strip and, as the gaudy lights come on, the women in thongs and lingerie emerge trying to drag men into casinos and clubs designated for gentlemen as if a sick joke. Nobody in town is any the wiser to what has taken place in their midst yet that goes for elsewhere too. A depressing day, back in a hotel and a quick look at the headlines and they are all about about Neymar, Messi and Liverpool.

So this is the biggest sports story there is right now? Sadly it's not.

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