Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo has been hit with class-action lawsuit seeking at least $1 billion in damages for his role in promoting cryptocurrency-related “non-fungible tokens,” or NFTs, issued by the beleaguered cryptocurrency exchange Binance.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida Monday alleges that Ronaldo’s promotion of Binance was “deceptive and unlawful.” Binance’s partnership with high-profile figures like Ronaldo, the plaintiffs claim, led them into costly and unsafe investments.
“Evidence now reveals that Binance’s fraud was only able to reach such heights through the offer and sale of unregistered securities, with the willing help and assistance of some of the wealthiest, powerful and recognized organizations and celebrities across the globe — just like Defendant Ronaldo,” the suit reads.
Ronaldo launched his inaugural NFT “CR7” collection with Binance in November of last year, ahead of the 2022 World Cup. The NFTs — which had starting prices ranging from the equivalent of about $77 to $10,000 — featured seven animated statues depicting Ronaldo from iconic moments in his life, from bicycle-kick goals to his childhood in Portugal.
Monday’s suit says that the promotional efforts of Ronaldo’s Binance partnership were “incredibly successful” — alleging a 500% increase in online searches using the keyword “Binance” after the soccer star’s NFTs was announced. The collection’s premium-level NFTs sold out within the first week, the suit claims.
The suit also alleges that Ronaldo should’ve disclosed how much Binance has paid him for the partnership. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission previously noted that federal law requires celebrities to publicly disclose how much they’re getting paid to promote securities, including crypto assets.
NFTs are ordinary digital images with an attached version number that have been added to a cryptocurrency blockchain, a process designed to make them “unique” collectibles. NFTs enjoyed a brief boom, but have since largely collapsed in value as the crypto industry has been marred by scandals and market meltdowns.