Electronic Arts is “closely monitoring” the controversy surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo, the soccer star accused of a 2009 sexual assault that is at the center of a civil lawsuit filed recently. Ronaldo is the cover star, for the second straight year, of EA Sports’ FIFA series.
When contacted by Polygon, an EA Sports representative provided the following statement:
We have seen the concerning report that details allegations against Cristiano Ronaldo. 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 situation involves a report published this weekend by Germany’s Der Spiegel, which obtained a settlement agreement between Ronaldo and an American woman. The agreement concerned her allegations of being sexually assaulted in a Las Vegas hotel in 2009. The woman was reportedly paid $375,000 and signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Now, however, she has identified herself, spoken at length about her 2009 allegations, and filed a civil complaint against Ronaldo. The woman, Kathryn Mayorga, reported the incident to Las Vegas police the day after it allegedly occurred; police there recently confirmed to USA Today that its investigation has been reopened and a rape kit, collected at a hospital the day the assault was reported, is still in authorities’ possession.
Ronaldo is marketed in FIFA 19 more than just on its cover. The Portuguese star (now with Italy’s Juventus after a decade with Real Madrid) again appears in The Journey: Champions, the third and final chapter of the series’ story mode, and is a highly rated player among the ultra-rare “Ones To Watch” cards in the Ultimate Team mode.
EA Sports has taken a wait-and-see approach when sports stars associated with the label have found themselves in legal or other trouble in the real world. Most notably, EA Sports stood with Tiger Woods in the winter of 2009 and 2010, when marital infidelities came to light and several big name sponsors terminated their relationships with the golfer. At the time, Woods was more than just the cover star of EA Sports’ golf game; he had been its namesake since 1999.
In other controversies, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was wiped out of Madden NFL 15’s Ultimate Team mode when that player was effectively kicked out of the league over a domestic violence incident that had originally been punished lightly.
And somewhat related, in the days when EA Sports was putting the Madden NFL cover up to a fan vote, Brandon Marshall was in the candidate pool when he was accused of punching a woman in the face outside a nightclub. At the time, marketers said EA Sports would have acted if a cover candidate developed a serious image problem.