A plane bearing a banner that supported a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted by football player Cristiano Ronaldo was seen flying over Old Trafford Stadium on Saturday during his first return game with Manchester United. Feminist group Level Up claimed responsibility for the stunt citing their mere intention was to remind the crowd of the rape allegations against Ronaldo.

The plane flew over the stadium as the banner flapped across the sky with the words, “Believe Kathryn Mayorga,” just after the start of the game against Newcastle United.

According to The Guardian, the banner was in reference to the allegations of rape that was made against Ronaldo by Kathryn Mayorga at a Las Vegas penthouse suite in 2009. Mayorga reported the assault to a local district attorney’s office however, she refused to state where the incident took place and would not even say the name of her attacker. 

Ronaldo has not denied having met and known Mayorga and insisted that their encounter was consensual. Police since have not been able to conduct a meaningful investigation. Las Vegas police who investigated the allegations said Mayorga’s case cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

In a 2018 tweet, Ronaldo reaffirmed his stand, "I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in."

At this time, Mayorga is currently pulling efforts to file a civil claim after her criminal complaint was dismissed. In 2018, Mayorga sought to reopen her case having been inspired by the #MeToo movement. She has filed a civil lawsuit in the US claiming “battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, coercion, fraud, abuse of a vulnerable person, racketeering, defamation, abuse of process, negligence and breach of contract”.

Lawyers representing Ronaldo won a US courtroom bid in 2019 to block Mayorga from digging into the validity of their confidentiality agreement. US prosecutors said Ronaldo would not face charges. Mayorga reportedly agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Ronaldo in 2010 involving a payment amounting to £288,000 ($375,000) where Mayorga consented to never publicize her allegations.

Ronaldo’s attorneys said the non-disclosure agreement does not mean a confession of guilt. The Portuguese player was advised to put an end to the outrageous accusations in order to quell any further attempts to destroy his reputation.

The unfazed striker scored two goals in his first Manchester United match receiving loud cheers from fans as he took to the pitch before the game. The Reds had a 4-1 victory.

Cristiano Ronaldo Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United reacts as he holds the match ball during the Premier League match between Manchester United and Newcastle United at Old Trafford on September 11, 2021 in Manchester, England. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images