A banner backing a woman who claims to have been sexually assaulted by Cristiano Ronaldo was flown over Old Trafford stadium during the footballer’s first game back at Manchester United on Saturday.
The banner, which read “Believe Kathryn Mayorga,” referred to allegations of rape made against the Portuguese international footballer in 2009.
Feminist campaign group Level Up claimed responsibility for the stunt.
Mayorga has claimed the player assaulted her in a hotel suite bedroom after she met him in a nightclub in Las Vegas. Ronaldo maintains the sex was consensual.
Mayorga is currently trying to pursue a civil claim after the criminal complaint was dismissed.
Las Vegas police reinvestigated the claims in 2018 but decided they could not “be proven beyond reasonable doubt”.
In Oktober 2018 Ronaldo tweeted: “I firmly deny the accusations being issued against me. Rape is an abominable crime that goes against everything that I am and believe in. Keen as I may be to clear my name, I refuse to feed the media spectacle created by people seeking to promote themselves at my expense.”
Mayorga 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”.
The banner appeared about five minutes into Manchester United’s game against Newcastle on Saturday, in which Ronaldo was part of the starting lineup.
The striker received loud cheers from fans as he took to the pitch before the game, in which he scored two goals in a 4-1 oorwinning.
Janey Starling, co-director of Level Up, gesê: “Manchester United has welcomed Cristiano like a hero, and created a culture of silence about the rape allegations made against him. That ends today.”
In 2019 lawyers representing Ronaldo won a US courtroom bid to block Mayorga from digging into the validity of a confidentiality agreement made between them in 2010 in which she was paid $375,000 (£270,000).
Mayorga, from Nevada, gave consent through her lawyers in 2018 to be identified.