I’ve gotten some questions today about comments made by soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo after he was allegedly called a gay slur during a match over the weekend. It seems to be a routine occurrence with Ronaldo, like it has been with a handful of other male professional athletes over the years: An incident drives a sudden trickle or flood of “is he gay” questions.
The latest incident involves Ronaldo allegedly telling teammates he is a “faggot,” adding both an increased level of speculation and a distasteful reporting of a news story by an organization that could appear as outing the athlete.
We’ve heard the rumors for years. Ronaldo is dating a kickboxer. Opposing fans chanted a gay slur at him earlier this year. He designs and models men’s underwear (as anyone with his body should). He gets massaged by men. Whether it’s any or all of these, like fellow athletes Tim Tebow, Troy Aikman and Aaron Rodgers, there is something in the zeitgeist that has led people to wonder aloud if Ronaldo is gay.
The episode over the weekend reflected and exacerbated that.
During a match Saturday night, Atletico Madrid player Koke and Ronaldo got into an altercation on the field. Words were clearly exchanged and the two players literally butted heads (not figuratively literally — literally). Some TV viewers have claimed Ronaldo even took a swing at Koke. They were both given yellow cards for the confrontation.
Oh, Ronaldo went on to score a hat trick and Real Madrid beat Atletico Madrid, 3-0.
Spanish radio station Cadena COPE claims to have overheard a conversation between Ronaldo and his teammates in the locker room after the match. Cadena COPE is one of the most popular radio stations in Spain.
According do Cadena COPE, Ronaldo told teammates that Koke called him a “faggot” on the pitch, and that is what sparked the confrontation. He allegedly told his teammates that responded to Koke, “a faggot, yes. But a rich one.” You can see Cadena COPE’s full account of the conversation at The Sun.
To be clear, Ronaldo did not seem to be making these comments with any intention that they would be broadcast publicly. Rather, he was talking with his teammates in a manner that clearly wasn’t intended to be digested publicly. Cadena COPE decided to share the story publicly, so here we are.
The first key piece of the whole incident is the allegation that Koke called Ronaldo a gay slur. If he did, he needs to be suspended by La Liga. This kind of language cannot be acceptable on or off the pitch, and a two-match suspension is in order.
The second part of this is obviously whether Ronaldo’s comments to his team reflect an understanding on the team that he is gay. We know there are gay professional male athletes who are out to teammates, friends and family members, but the public is left in the dark.
The question is whether the private comment by Ronaldo is a reflection that that’s the case here, or whether he was just spouting off to teammates about it and was mocking Koke’s slur by taking ownership of it.
People have wondered aloud for years about Ronaldo’s sexual orientation. To many, particularly in America, he fits the “pretty boy” gay “look” with perfectly-quaffed hair, an adorable face and a rocking bod that he’s not afraid to show off. Of course, to many others he looks like a lot of other young European straight guys. Regardless, whether it’s ignorance, stereotype or wishful thinking, a lot of rumors get spread about Ronaldo being gay.
Either way, it’s pretty crappy of the radio station to share the transcript of what seems to have been a private conversation. They could have easily said that Ronaldo told teammates he was called a “faggot” without revealing he said he was one. To handle it this way with anyone is crappy, but to do it with an athlete who is already the center of speculation is particularly damaging.
At this point I wish Ronaldo would just address the speculation. It’s obviously his choice, but the stream of speculation and rumor is annoying at best. Maybe he doesn’t do that because he likes it, or he’s concerned about looking homophobic. When others like Manti Teo have addressed rumors publicly, it hasn’t gone over well. Done right though — “I’m flattered by the speculation, but I’m just not gay” — it can be respectful and well-received.
And as with any other athlete, if Ronaldo is in fact gay I hope he finds the courage to come out publicly and transform the perception of gay athletes worldwide in an instant. Pretty boy or not, he is one of the best soccer players in the world. Him being gay would certainly open some eyes.
Either way it’s his choice. I just hope he’s able to find some peace in all the bullshit.