Ronaldo’s NDA doesn’t equate to guilt but it does make truth harder to come by



What happened to innocent until proven guilty? And if Cristiano Ronaldo is found innocent, will the woman be sentenced to the same punishment as he would have had to suffer? Pottsy81, Liverpool.

Do you want this applied in all cases or just rape? In other words, if an individual accused of murder is found not guilty, should the arresting officer get life? Maybe the copper that nicked David Beckham for speeding, before he escaped using a legal loophole, should have three points put on his licence instead. So, the same rule for all – or is it just women you wish to be terrified into silence? Anyway, nowhere in this week’s column about Ronaldo – which can be read here – was he judged guilty. We have lawyers to guard against rash assumptions by writers and I’m pleased to say that the piece returned from them without a single legal mark. I hope to get through this debate similarly untroubled. I will make one point about innocence in a court of law, however: Ronaldo, and his people, chose not to embrace that opportunity. That is why they offered a settlement and a non-disclosure agreement instead of allowing the case to proceed with the possibility of a trial. More of that later. First, this, because it’s so much nicer than what we’ll be wading through.

You need a non-disclosure agreement if you don’t want anything shared. It’s pretty standard if a social climber tries to use your name to get ahead by dragging it through the mud – which happens a lot more than you think. You’ve constantly got to be protective of your image otherwise it will be tarnished, even if you have nothing to hide. FlashHarryVCKB, Amsterdam.

Seriously? You think an allegation of rape is a form of social climbing? I must have missed these red carpet events and galas for the victims. Maybe they’re niche. I fail to see how the hope of fame would be the motivation for such an allegation. It is very easy for the powerful to depict any claim made against them as an attempt at advancement, but I’m not buying that.

As a sports journalist, you need to discuss Real Madrid. They signed Ronaldo in 2009 just as this happened, earned millions from him until 2018, then banked £100m for selling him. No word of anything for nine years from you lot in the Press – but what a coincidence the stories resurface now Real Madrid have sold him, eh? Rtj1211, London.

Ronaldo is a global star, capable of dominating the news agenda across many countries, not least the United Kingdom, Spain and Portugal. So an awful lot of news outlets that Real Madrid need to pay off, if we’re all as corrupt as you believe. As it is was, the first story about these allegations surfaced on April 19, 2017, in a German newspaper Der Spiegel, quoting the website Football Leaks as its source. Ronaldo was very much a Real Madrid player at the time, and would win two further Champions League titles with them before leaving this summer. So what happened? Maybe Real Madrid missed a bung to Der Speigel – or maybe your ridiculous fantasies are just that, and it is actually rather hard to uncover a historic rape allegation, protected by an NDA and a private financial settlement. It is now being suggested in Spain that Ronaldo will say he was pressured into taking the NDA route by Madrid, who had just paid Manchester United a lot of money for his services and had a reputation to protect. Even that is as yet unconfirmed, however, and I wouldn’t like to guess at whether Madrid knew every detail or not. It could be that they knew there was a problem and that it could harm their investment, but once it had been dealt with to the satisfaction of Ronaldo and his representatives took no further interest. I doubt if this is the first such agreement made by a figure in the public eye, either, and Ronaldo’s employers as well as his sponsors may have seen the NDA route as unexceptional in the circumstances.

My question is: will the accuser reimburse Ronaldo for the loss of trust from sponsors and other commercial partners, if he is deemed innocent? GOAT Decider, San Francisco.

What an incredibly foolish idea. This way the wealthy could behave as they wished, because the financial penalties for challenging them would be utterly catastrophic for any person of average means. Rape convictions are hard to win. They would die out altogether if the alleged victim was held responsible for any failure.

This is about publicity and money and a young man’s life is being ruined through a trial by the media. If they were interested in truth and justice, this case should have been investigated quietly without involving the press. Hustler02, Toronto.

It was investigated quietly, then one side paid money for it to go so quiet it would never be heard of at all. That may be your idea of truth and justice, but it’s not mine.

I encourage everyone to read the Der Spiegel article before making blanket claims about guilt, innocence or the motives of the accused. Martin’s point is entirely neutral anyway, he is making the case that these accusations should never be trivialised and glamorised, as opposed to saying who is right or wrong. Axel47, London.

I’ll tell you what happened, Axel. At the end of last week, I had discussed writing about the Ronaldo case with my editor, but I didn’t want to write about it until I thought there was something to say. And that something cannot be, as you rightly point out, who is right or wrong. That’s not for me to decide. Then, at the weekend, stories started appearing that investigators wanted to interview Ronaldo’s ex-girlfriends. Suddenly, a serious allegation came accompanied with shots of Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. It seemed to sum up the modern penchant for the trivialisation of even the most important subjects and stories, and that is what I wrote about. As you say, the point was neutral, although the subject matter was heavy. As I said earlier, there were no legal marks, but two descriptions of the actual allegation were removed, not by any lawyer, but because my editor found them too graphic for the breakfast table. I think you can say more on the internet, say, in a forum such as this than you can in a newspaper. The internet contains more graphic footage, for instance, than the nightly news for the same reason. There is a certain self-censorship required if you are going into people’s homes, and I understand that. As you say, the full details of the allegation can be found in Der Spiegel’s article and anyone who has read them will be aware of the jarring juxtaposition of the alleged events with what is increasingly becoming just another showbiz story.

Where is innocent until proven guilty? Ashfielder, Mansfield.

It seems to be floundering under the weight of almost unlimited wealth. When you can buy silence, does that make you guilty by implication, or innocent because you fear exposure will unfairly damage your reputation? Chickster2015, United Kingdom.

Good question, Chickster. I think what has happened in the last two weeks shows exactly why Ronaldo’s people wanted an NDA because, undoubtedly, whatever unfolds from here there will have been reputational damage. Better to make the problem go away, than wait up to a year for your day in court, living with the very public suspicion. So, no, I don’t think an NDA equates to guilt. I do think, however, it makes truth harder to come by.

It becomes trivialised because this is the world we live in. It’s not just about Ronaldo. When Donald Trump mocks a woman who has said she was sexually abused and the crowd cheer, then there is something wrong in the world. Women are afraid to come forward because when they do, they are not believed or, worse, ignored. Some of the comments on this story are sad to read. Purple Haze, Liverpool.

Agreed. One of my sons drew exactly the same comparison with Trump and the way his mockery of Christine Blasey Ford had been received. Whether you think her testimony worthy or not, to see her humiliated in that way by no less a figure than the president of the United States would surely be a deterrent for any woman thinking of coming forward to report assault. If a man considered fit to be leader of the free world can behave like that, why would we expect ordinary folk to be any different? And that’s right, of course: but I’d still like to think most of the planet was nicer than Donald Trump. This certainly is.

In these kind of allegations I think the accuser and accused should remain anonymous until there is a verdict, because it ruins lives. King in the north, New York.

I understand that, but the publicity sometimes helps establish a pattern of behaviour because others come forward. This was certainly the case with, say, Bill Cosby or the abuse cases around Barry Bennell in football. It helps for a victim to know he or she is not alone, and it helps prosecutors to get a conviction when others join with similar experiences. So while I see your point, I can also see the value in going public.

Just when you think Samuel has jumped on every bandwagon, he finds another. Stick to sports reports or post the article in main news section. Lots of unproven names banded about there. Imre Banana, United Kingdom.

Right. You are aware that Ronaldo is arguably the most famous footballer on the planet? That alone makes it a sports story. And to preclude Martin from having a journalistic viewpoint on this is akin to saying Mary Berry can’t have an opinion on a roast chicken dinner because she bakes cakes. Bobsin42, Manchester.

Fine analogy, Bob. Equally, what ‘unproven names’ have been banded about in the case? Is this a reference to the list of Ronaldo’s ex-girlfriends? There was never any suggestion in the article that he had behaved improperly towards them. I refuse to be told what I can and cannot write by someone who cannot understand the simplest concepts.

There is no suggestion that he raped the woman. In what kind of la la land are you living, Samuel? In our day and age, an unproved accusation is enough to make the damage. His business empire is on the brink and Juventus shares have already lost 10 per cent. To accuse someone without being able to prove it should be severely punished. Bruno, Guildford.

And that should apply to the police, yes? And to those bringing libel, yes? And those claiming to be victims of medical malpractice or wrongful dismissal, yes? In just about every criminal case a reputation is at stake. So why is it only in cases of rape that we hear constant calls to make the alleged victim personally responsible if a case does not get over the line? There are a whole host of legal professionals responsible for bringing a rape charge. They, not the victim, decide the grounds for prosecution, the evidence used, the way the case is to proceed. As for talking about the consequences in terms of business empires and Juventus’ shares, I’d say there’s a little more than that at stake.

There is a certain nightclub in Essex that young footballers frequent and girls come from as far away as north London on Saturday and Sunday night, hunting football stars. That is a known fact. Ana-Maria, United Kingdom.

Well, if it is such a known fact, why not name the club? And north London to Essex really isn’t that far. Woodford is in Essex. White Hart Lane is six miles away around the north circular. Anyway…

Fact – maybe. Irrelevant – definitely. Wembley Stadium could be filled with women desperate to bag a footballer and that wouldn’t mean a footballer is incapable of assault. A Drunken Horse, United Kingdom.

Or that a woman who was assaulted was in some way asking for it, which is the strange implication here: that because footballers are considered a catch, any woman in their orbit might be considered fair game.

NDAs shouldn’t be there to cover up. Surely that should be classed as perverting the course of justice. MobileManc, Fareham.

Agreed.

What about all the men accused and charged on no more evidence than the uncorroborated testimony of their accusers? Where’s the justice in that? Never mind years after the event. Why automatically take the side of the accuser? Political correctness trumps the presumption of innocence. SeanL, London.

No it doesn’t. Nobody has said Ronaldo is guilty and it is unlikely any criminal case will get to court so long after the fact. What I find disturbing is the number of people who talk as if men are the real victims of rape, that those falsely accused or cases that go unproven, outweigh the cases that are never heard because of how difficult it is to get a conviction. It is precisely because so many cases are uncorroborated – due to the nature of the offence – that abuse of all kinds often goes unreported. The number of people on here who then want the victim held punitively responsible if a charge is not upheld would mean the only woman who might feel confident enough to come forward, would be one that had been attacked in the centre circle at Wembley Stadium, while the match was going on.

You have made it a spectacle. In your eyes he is guilty until proven innocent. It is trial by media. The case with the majority of women, snag a rich footballer – if they can’t keep hold of him and become a celebrity within that timeframe a rape claim is what’s needed to stay in the spotlight and make easy money via the tabloids. Pathetic really. Le Traveler, Manchester.

The case with majority of women? Really? I actually feel sorry that you live in a world where you believe that the majority of women would make rape accusations after being dumped by footballers. Rugrats, Huyton.

Not to mention this idea of staying in the spotlight: as if the fame of being romantically linked to a well-known footballer and the notoriety of being attacked are interchangeable. Who would want that? Who would see that as a path to celebrity? There are better ways; maybe become a muse. Until next time.