A message of support for Kathryn Mayorga, the woman who accused Cristiano Ronaldo of sexually assaulting her in 2009, was flown above Old Trafford during the forward’s second Manchester United debut on Saturday.
Feminist group Level Up were responsible for the banner, which read: “Believe Kathryn Mayorga”.
In a post on Twitter, they added: “Let’s say NO to the culture of silence around abuse from the football community.”
☄️ We flew a plane over the Man United football ground and our message is simple: Believe Kathryn Mayorga.
— Level Up (@we_level_up) September 11, 2021
Mayorga alleged that Ronaldo raped her in a Las Vegas hotel room in the summer of 2009. He has denied these claims.
“I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in,” the 36-year-old said on Twitter in 2018.
In 2019, US prosecutors determined that Ronaldo would not face criminal charges over the allegations because the investigation failed to show the claim could be proven.
The plane flew over Old Trafford just after kick-off in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Newcastle in the Premier League, with Ronaldo scoring twice on his return 12 years after leaving.
In 2019, Ronaldo said the rape allegation against him was an attack on his honour and led to the worst year of his life.
Speaking to Portuguese television TVI, Ronaldo said: “2018 was probably my worst year ever, personally speaking. When people question your honour, it hurts, it hurts a lot.”
The investigation was originally closed in 2009 but reopened in 2018 shortly before Ms Mayorga filed a civil lawsuit, offering details she initially withheld. She said she had gained the courage to speak out because of the #MeToo movement.
Speaking to detectives at the time, the woman said she knew the person who she claimed assaulted her, but she refused to identify him and would also not say where the attack happened.
As a result, police say they were unable to “follow investigative protocols for sexual assault cases or to conduct any meaningful investigation” as they were unable to visit the location of the crime or impound vital forensic evidence.
The statement also said video evidence believed to show interactions between the alleged attacker and victim before and after the crime were lost, leading to the criminal case closing for the first time.