New York -US
sportswear giant Nike says it is "deeply concerned" by rape allegations
against star client Cristiano Ronaldo while shares in his club Juventus
fell almost 10 percent on the Italian stock exchange on Friday.
Ronaldo's coach at Juventus, Massimiliano Allegri, said the striker
is "doing well" and is "ready to play" when the Turin giants travel to
Udinese in Serie A on Saturday.
But the player's relationship with Nike, which is rumoured to be
worth $1 billion, is under scrutiny after police in
Las Vegas announced this week they were reopening an investigation into
allegations made by a former model, Kathryn Mayorga, relating to an
incident in 2009.
"We are deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations and will
continue to closely monitor the situation," a Nike spokesperson told AFP.
According to Forbes magazine, Ronaldo is one of only three athletes
to have been given a lifetime deal with Nike, joining an elite club that
also includes NBA icons LeBron James and Michael Jordan.
EA Sports, for whom Ronaldo is a leading figure in their phenomenally
successful FIFA video game market, also described the allegations as
"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," the group said in a statement.
from Real Madrid to Juventus in the summer gave the Italian champions a
huge boost, both on and off the field, as they continue their elusive
bid for a first Champions League title since 1996.
On September 20, Juventus shares rose 180 percent to a record level of over €1.80.
But on Friday, almost 10 percent was wiped off their value with
shares closing on the Milan stock exchange down 9.92% at €1.19.
Juventus have so far stood behind Ronaldo, but the Italian club's reaction to the issue has angered some fans.
The Portuguese striker "has shown in recent months his great
professionalism and dedication, which is appreciated by everyone at
Juventus", the club wrote on Twitter Thursday, breaking their silence
over the allegations.
"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."
Juventus later posted a video on YouTube and Twitter showing Ronaldo
training, with the caption: "Juventus go for goal. Cristiano Ronaldo
finds the target!"
The defending Serie A champions' tweets were widely panned on social media as "shockingly dismissive and insensitive".
"You'd expect a more nuanced and sensitive approach from such a mega organisation," said one tweet.
In his pre-match press conference on Friday, Allegri said Ronaldo seemed "calm".
"I see Ronaldo calm, he is ready to play. His professionalism and his
composure on and off the pitch are not in question," the Juventus coach
Ronaldo has vehemently denied the rape accusations.
"I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me," he tweeted in English on Wednesday.
"Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in.
"My clear conscious (sic) will thereby allow me to await with
tranquility the results of any and all investigations," he added on his
Twitter feed, which has 75 million followers.
Portugal said on Thursday Ronaldo will play no part in the country's
next four internationals, but national coach Fernando Santos gave him
Asked about the allegations, Santos said. "I know Cristiano Ronaldo
very well and I fully believe his word when he says he would never
commit a crime like this."
Mayorga's attorney Leslie Stovall told reporters his client had
suffered years of trauma as a result of the alleged attack and found the
courage to speak out thanks to the #MeToo movement against sexual
harassment and assault at the hands of powerful men.
Mayorga claims she was pressured into signing a non-disclosure
agreement in 2010 to keep the alleged rape secret and is seeking at
least $200 000 in penalties and damages.