In 2017 the #MeToo movement brought accusations of lewd sexual behaviour against a portion of the rich and powerful in society.
It represented a paradigm shift, one intended to bridge the gap between men and women, the powerful and those that worked for them. The crimes publicised were often gaudy and near incomprehensible.
Harvey Weinstein was the most infamous, vilified for his casting couch type endeavours. Kevin Spacey was fired for repeated unwanted sexual advances upon co-workers.
Surprisingly, it emerged that most of the organisations involved previously knew of their employees’ misdeeds though in the interest of good practice and the new status quo, cast these predators aside.
Those in powerful positions could no longer use their status to inflict harm on others.
The movement drew a line in the sand of acceptable behaviour, and importantly, promised to create a rulebook of what society was willing to accept.
It was an empowering ideal.
But was it merely an aspirational ideal?
Documents emerged this week in German publication Der Spiegel purporting to be a settlement between Cristiano Ronaldo and a woman he is accused of raping in Las Vegas in 2009.
Ronaldo has denied the accusations. The documents were surprising in their volume and detail. The woman was photographed with Ronaldo on the night in question.
She recounted repeatedly protesting his advances. The alleged victim stated that Ronaldo had apologised after the incident.
There is a police report from the day following and photographs of her injuries. The supposed victim did not give the name of her attacker.
There is a statement, reported to be from Cristiano Ronaldo, which confirms that the woman had said ‘no’. There is a second statement, also reported to be from Ronaldo, in which it is claimed that the encounter was consensual.
There was a financial settlement of $375,000 in early 2010.
The allegations create discomfort among those who admire Ronaldo as a footballer.
While debates continue about his place in the pantheon of football’s greatest players, Cristiano Ronaldo is definitely among the world elite and the public has marvelled at his skill.
Yet, here is he, accused of a terrible crime; one which has prompted serious questions about not only how we view Ronaldo, but his position in society.
It is surprising that Cristiano Ronaldo supposedly admitted that his accuser had protested his advances.
In 2018, it is almost incomprehensible that this would occur; that a superstar would reportedly be on record admitting guilt (albeit admitting culpability in a manner that was later contradicted).
But that statement occurred in a different era. It was in a time when Ronaldo and his lawyers presumably felt a confidentiality agreement was binding.
It was before Ryan Giggs and his super injunction was made public in the House of Lords.
Had the alleged incident not occurred in 2009, it might have had a different reality. There would likely be no admission of culpability. We now live in a reality where denial of evident truth is commonplace.
Anything unacceptable to the brand, or that which counters what you wish to be true is ‘fake news’. Ronaldo even referred to the allegations this week as ‘fake news’.
US President Donald Trump and even Irish MMA star Conor McGregor are responsible for creating a new reality, denying the undeniable, and waiting for the next big story.
Floyd Mayweather once described his criminal convictions for assaulting women as ‘just hearsay and allegations’. This was an insult to the credibility of the judicial system.
Donald Trump denied the veracity of audio recordings in which he spoke derogatorily about women in October 2016. This was an insult to the intelligence of those who heard the recordings.
This is the reality in which we live. The era of Woodward and Bernstein has been replaced by the reshaped reality of Trump, spin and loud ignorance.
Maybe Cristiano Ronaldo can thank Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee who has monopolised the media and the attentions of the women’s rights movement this week.
Kavanagh is another accused of historic crimes against women, less grave than the accusations levelled at Ronaldo, but the protests against his nomination to the Supreme Court have continued through the week.
Sunderland football club have suffered an ignominious decline in English football but arguably their greatest embarrassment has been the actions of Chief Executive Margaret Byrnes regarding the Adam Johnson sex abuse accusations.
Johnson was arrested and charged in 2015 with grooming and sexually abusing an underage girl. Johnson publically denied the allegations awaiting trial, yet privately admitted culpability.
He was then allowed to continue representing Sunderland football club pending the trial. Byrnes was later removed from her position in light of this information.
The Adam Johnson incident demonstrates that football clubs are often unconcerned about the misdeeds of their players, provided they can produce on the playing field.
Similarly, Sheffield United’s attempts to sign Ched Evans following his release from prison on a rape conviction in 2014 were met with mass protests. (Evans was later found not guilty at a retrial).
The issue sparked debate, long before the #MeToo movement, as to whether Evans was entitled to the privileged position of professional footballer following serving his prison term.
It is somewhat of a surprise that these types of debates have not been sparked this week.
Having said that, the Portuguese star is a far more valuable footballer than Adam Johnson or Ched Evans with influence extending far beyond the parameters of sport.
The accusations that have emerged are unproven, but regardless of their authenticity, they create a reality with which football fans are uncomfortable considering.
What should happen, and importantly, what does this whole saga tell us? Should Ronaldo continue to represent Juventus while the situation lacks clarity? Possibly not.
Whether #MeToo remains an aspirational ideal or becomes an unquestionable reality, we still don’t know.
We didn’t suspect a year ago that #MeToo had a ceiling, but the accusations against both Ronaldo and Kavanaugh would seem to suggest that it does.
.@Cristiano Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus. 1/1
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) October 4, 2018
The events allegedly dating back to almost 10 years ago do not change this opinion, which is shared by anyone who has come into contact with this great champion. 2/2
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) October 4, 2018
Perhaps we should just lament the #MeToo movement and say that it was great while it lasted.
It brought an end to the career of Harvey Weinstein; but then again, but who was Harvey Weinstein anyway? His was just some name at the beginning of movie credits.
It exposed Kevin Spacey as a sexual predator and led to his firing from House of Cards. But this was at a time when the show had lost its lustre and people were tiring of Spacey’s shtick anyway.
Here’s the thing about #MeToo that we never really considered – while it empowered the victims and celebrated their bravery, it never really cost us anything.
Judgement is free and the baying public were happy to support #MeToo so long as it didn’t impact on them.
The Cristiano Ronaldo allegations have exposed the public’s true dedication to righteousness.
The #MeToo movement was clearly all well and good until people were forced to choose between a moral stand and their favourite footballer.
Henceforth, when we think of Cristiano Ronaldo, we will of course think of the great moments he has provided, such as that wonder goal against Juventus last season.
His talent as a footballer is that immense. But until these accusations can be resolved, we will remain uncomfortable at the notion of cheering another Ronaldo goal, desperately wondering whether he should be celebrated in the first place.