Juventus and the defense of Ronaldo as a sportsman

ronaldo

Yesterday evening, Juventus expressed his support towards Cristiano Ronaldo, about the allegations of violence addressed to him by an american woman, for facts dating back to 2009.

Here are Juventus’ tweets:

 UNCONDITIONAL SUPPORT 

These are the first messages written by Juventus on the topic, posted in Italian, English, Spanish, Arab and Japanese. There aren’t any other posts on Juventus’ social network accounts, nor announcements on the website, the club chose Twitter for an immediate communication, even if it’s not its most popular social network.

The tweets immediately led to discussions, perplexity and strong criticism, among twitter users (not only Juventus’ supporters) and some “neutral” and foreign media.

Sports illustrated harshly criticised Juventus’ choice of supporting the athlete, talking about “Tone deaf” and asserting that “The utter stupidity behind the club’s actions is baffling”.

The post has been criticised for 4 main reasons, sorted here by importance:

1 – Bad layout; it isn’t structured like a thread and presents social communication errors (1/1 instead of 1/2, one out of two).
2 – Badly written, in a judicial jargon unusual for twitter, with terms like “allegedly” and a weird use of punctuation (especially in the Italian version).
3 – It doesn’t convey the idea of a neutral support towards Ronaldo and his professionalism REGARDLESS of his personal issues. The post could look like an aprioristic support, minimising the actions he has been accused of.
4 – The decision of expressing on a topic with a great media coverage like this, in a clumsy and misunderstandable way, could look like a media own goal.

Obviously, the message hasn’t been written by Juventus’ usual social media staff and not even by a trainee, as some journalists weirdly wrote; it has been published after a scrupulous legal consultations and approved by the club’s top management.

Let’s sum up the facts, then we will try to understand WHY Juventus reacted in this way.

 THE FACTS 

In 2017, Football Leaks unveiled some private documents of Jorge Mendes’ Gestifute, including the extrajudicial agreement between Ronaldo and a woman, who agrees not to disclose information about an allegation of violence, upon a 375k dollars payment. The German news magazine Der Spiegel reconstructed the events in two articles in 2017 and in an investigation last week, interviewing the woman – Kathryn Mayorga – who had decided to unveil and break the confidentiality agreement, no longer valid according to his lawyers.

The lawyers lodged a civil complaint stating that the agreement signed in 2009 was invalid, especially because of the psychological condition of the woman in that moment. Then, the police of Las Vegas reopened the investigation, asserting that the victim hadn’t given any information about the location and the identity of the “culprit”, but underwent some clinical investigations within the police. We will wait for further information.

It’s not easy to understand what could happen in the next days. The allegations need to be proved and private documents can be contested by Ronaldo’s lawyers, just like the 2009 agreement could be considered as valid, therefore the investigation would only be a formal act, without any penal procedure for Ronaldo.

We like to underline that any judgement about the protagonists of the facts is absolutely premature.

 CRISTIANO’S DEFENSE AND JUVENTUS’ DEFENSE 

“History’s most famous personality” (the one with more fan/followers ever) now has to face a potential “trial by media” and the connection with a horrible action like violation,, and they could either be quickly forgotten or become a overwhelming burden fed by media and public opinion.

After talking about “fake news” on Instagram, Ronaldo released these statements on Twitter:

Ronaldo’s serenity, as used to oppressive pressures (different from this one), seems to be proved by the hattricks against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid after the first articles by Der Spiegel in 2017, and of course by his outstanding performance against Naples a few days after the most recent facts.

Let’s return to the main topic: Juventus’ attitude towards this topic.

Many people tried to rewrite Juventus’ tweets in a more appropriate style, avoiding misunderstandings, expressing support but in a balanced way, condemning all forms of violence. But there is a reason why Juventus has stated his opinion in this very way.

Ronaldo has to condemn violence to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the public, Juventus wasn’t interested in entering the vicissitudes or expressing its obvious opinion on all forms of violence.

Juventus doesn’t express opinions, doesn’t place hopes in the progression of the facts, it only separates Cristiano as a Juventus employee (serious, professional, remarkable) from Ronaldo as a young man 10 years ago, now a man involved in facts which have nothing to do with Juventus.

So, why Juventus does feel the need to say that “Cristiano is a good professional” ?

Nike (which has Ronaldo signed for a lifetime contract, thanks to which it earns an incredible revenue) and EA Sports (which has just launched its flagship product, FIFA 19, with Ronaldo’s face nearly everywhere) have released similar statement about the facts, very different from Juventus’.

Nike declares itself “deeply concerned by the disturbing allegations“, while EA Sports even “expects cover athletes and ambassadors to conduct themselves in a manner that is consistent with EA’s values“. These are strategic messages which aim at dodging away from the situation. Nike and EA are multinational corporations which address to men, women and children messages inspired by ethical policies. that respond to user-oriented commercial practices. Ronaldo is, for them, a temporary testimonial who embodies precise values. If he makes mistakes or is just associated to unpleasant facts, they do have to dodge away and wait.

Juventus didn’t reason in this way, it doesn’t consider Ronaldo an ambassador of the values of the club, it doesn’t care about condemning violence. For Juventus, Ronaldo in an employee, a sportsman who is crucial for its near sport future. It also has a weaker position as compared to EA and Nike’s: it can’t easily dodge away from the facts, maybe because of the type of contract Ronaldo has signed that could not feature reimbursements or annulments in these cases.

Juventus defends Cristiano as a Sportsman, while Real Madrid maintained silence in the face of tax evasion allegations. Juventus is interested only in Ronaldo as a professional, not as a front man of the club.

Is it a correct choice? On legal terms, and maybe also about the relationship with the footballer, it surely has a purpose and a valid function. On the other hand, considering communication, visibility and brand equity, this choice looked too much conservative and not so forward-looking.

Juventus chose to blindly support Ronaldo as an athlete, the man who was given the future of the club, and to maintain silence about all the rest. It seems legit, but regarding the worldwide image of the club, this choice didn’t satisfy everybody.

Translation by Alex Campanelli