The Rape Allegation Against Cristiano Ronaldo Reveals Fame's Protective Shield
ESPN The Magazine|April 2019

To be the world’s most famous athlete means Cristiano Ronaldo can appear on screens everywhere yet somehow elude the fallout from a rape allegation.

Sam Borden

On a warm October day in Las Vegas, we slip our car into a parking lot wedged between two buildings, then push open the door to the lawyer’s office. My colleague, Nicole Noren, and I figure this will be simple. We are in Nevada reporting on the rape allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo, and we want to meet Ronaldo’s attorneys, as well as the lawyers representing Kathryn Mayorga, the woman accusing him.

Normally, this sort of meeting is pretty straightforward for journalists. Lawyers, particularly those who do a lot of personal injury work in places with no shortage of clients like Las Vegas, almost always have a strong perspective on a case and are generally happy to tell you all about it. When those clients are celebrities and the cases are in the public eye, that chattiness—on the record or on background—is amped up even more.

We have seen news reports that a lawyer named Peter Christiansen is representing Ronaldo, though we have not confirmed this, and even if it is true, we are not sure which Peter Christiansen—there is a Peter J. and a Peter S. in this office. We find the Christiansen Law offices down the street from a bail bondsman and a wedding chapel. We go inside and, seeing no receptionist or secretary, follow a sign for “Christiansen” down a hall.

We step into an office where two women and a man are sitting. We identify ourselves and ask if we can either talk to or make an appointment with one of the Christiansens. The women physically recoil.

“You have to leave right now,” one of them replies. Her voice rises. “You’re not allowed to be here. You have to go. You have to go.”

She is frantic. I explain that there is no one at the front desk area so we’d decided to walk back. I ask if we can leave a message or even just confirm which Peter Christiansen is Ronaldo’s lawyer. The woman becomes more animated. “You need to leave right now!” she says. “I can call the police if I need to.”

We back away, confused. “A lawyer won’t even confirm he is representing someone? That’s never happened to me before,” I say to Nicole as we walk to the car. She nods. “Never for me either.”

The whole thing feels strange. We look over our shoulders and see the woman from the office watching us as we leave. She peers out the door as we drive away.

THERE IS A lot that feels unusual about this case: the circumstances surrounding the alleged crime, the start-stop-start-again police investigation, the fallout (or lack thereof) that comes with the world’s most famous athlete being accused of committing a violent sex crime.

A big part of this is the timeline. According to Mayorga, Ronaldo raped her in the early hours of June 13, 2009, after she and a friend met him at a club and spent part of the previous evening together. Mayorga, then 25, reported the assault to Las Vegas police that afternoon. She did not identify Ronaldo by name at that time, she says, because he was a public figure and she felt intimidated. She was taken to a hospital and had a rape kit examination.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ESPN THE MAGAZINEView All

Who Is The Future Of U.S. Women's Soccer?

Introducing the marvelous Mallory Pugh

10+ mins read
ESPN The Magazine
June 2019

Marks of Strength

A catastrophic accident took so much from Seth Hanchey, including his ability to speak. Weightlifting gave so much back: the motivation to recover, the drive to compete, the power to inspire. Here, his mother tells his story.

7 mins read
ESPN The Magazine
July 9, 2018

Ninja, The Biggest Gamer In The World

How did Ninja become gaming’s first crossover star? The Fortnite legend is relentless about one thing: He’s always on.

10+ mins read
ESPN The Magazine
October 1, 2018

The Greatest Dad On Earth

The Lakers are poised to be an NBA high-wire act. So what better place to prep their new big man, JaVale McGee, and his baby girl than at circus school?

7 mins read
ESPN The Magazine
October 1, 2018

NFL- The Smart Money Is On Defensive Backs

Slot Machine Miami placed a premium on inside coverage when it used a top pick on Minkah Fitzpatrick. If a team is smart, it will follow the Dolphins’ lead.

3 mins read
ESPN The Magazine
October 1, 2018

'I Want To Make Her Proud'

Devastated by the suicide of his older sister earlier this year, 49ers defensive end Solomon Thomas opens up about his lossÑand shares his newfound dedication to fighting America’s mental health crisis. —AS TOLD TO MOLLY KNIGHT

8 mins read
ESPN The Magazine
October 1, 2018

How Pitchers Get A Grip On Hand Woes

Pickle juice? Superglue? Peeing on their digits? This is the gripping tale of how far pitchers go to get an upper hand.

10+ mins read
ESPN The Magazine
October 1, 2018

Ready For Prime Time

He is a rookie starter and much is expected, yet as Jayson Tatum warms up with his teammates before his first NBA game, he appears impervious to the noise and the lights and the pulsating anticipation inside Quicken Loans Arena.

10+ mins read
ESPN The Magazine
October 29, 2018

Breaking Big

Ken Roczen thought he might never race again after two horrific crashes. But his incredible comeback is almost here.

1 min read
ESPN The Magazine
December 2018/January 2019

Novak Djokovic's Return To The Elite

In the spring, he was in the worst slump of his career. Two grand slams later, he’s back to No. 1. Writer Michael Steinberger takes us inside Djokovic’s return to the elite.

7 mins read
ESPN The Magazine
December 2018/January 2019