LONDON – Pressure built on Cristiano Ronaldo from his sponsors after Nike on Thursday joined EA Sports in expressing deep concern with the rape allegation facing the soccer star.
The five-time world player of the year has denied the claim. Late Thursday night, he received public backing from his Italian club, Juventus, shortly after Nike issued its statement to The Associated Press.
Nike has had a contract with Ronaldo, one of the wealthiest and most famous soccer players in the world, since 2003. The latest terms signed in 2016 are worth a reported $1 billion and Ronaldo has suggested that it was a deal “for life.”
But the Beaverton, Oregon-based apparel maker is troubled by the details emerging in a lawsuit filed last week in a Nevada state court by a woman who alleges she was raped by Ronaldo in Las Vegas in 2009.
“We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said in an emailed statement to the AP.
Ronaldo wears Nike boots and appears in its advertising.
The Portugal captain is also the face of the EA Sports FIFA video game franchise, appearing on the cover of the 2019 game that was released worldwide last week.
“We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo,” EA Sports told the AP. “We are closely monitoring the situation, as we expect cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values.”
Whereas other players might be winding down their careers at 33, Ronaldo is still in demand by leading clubs. Ronaldo made the third big transfer of this career in July, leaving Real Madrid after nine years for Juventus, a move that cost the Italian club 112 million euros (then $132 million).
Breaking its silence on the alleged assault, Juventus strongly backed its most expensive star in a Twitter statement.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has shown in recent months his great professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at Juventus,” the Italian league champions said. “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.”