“They defend you if you’re black or gay, but not fat”: Does former futebol superstar Ronaldo still see himself as a white man?

Ronaldo the Phenomenon
Ronaldo
Ronaldo the Phenomenon

Note from BW of Brazil: Today’s story takes me down memory lane for a few reasons. First because I still remember when Ronaldo, the known as the Phenomenon, made a statement to the press about the racism that black players were experiencing in European futebol stadiums. I remembering thinking that was gonna speak on the issue from the position of a black man who knew exactly what it was like.

But then he made me do a double take when he defined himself as “branco”, or a white man. I had been following racial issues by then, 2005, for about five years, so I knew that there were a lot of people in Brazil whose physical features signaled African ancestry but didn’t see themselves as such, but even so, Ronaldo blew me away with that one.

white ronaldo
“Ronandinho say that “he’s white”, a lamentable “phenomenon” – In blue “I, that am white, suffer with such ignorance”

Some years later, Neymar, who would ascend and take a place among Brazil’s many futebol elites a few years later, also turned heads when he said he wasn’t black about five years later. I mean, it’s Brazil, and this is pretty widespread. 

The other thing I remember about Ronaldo was when I was in the city of Ilhéus, in the state of Bahia, right when the 2006 World Cup was starting. Brazil had won its record fifth championship in 2002 with Ronaldo playing a starring role and Brazilians were looking forward to another title. At that time, many fans and the press were questioning Ronaldo’s weight and physique as he appeared a bit huskier than usual and not well-prepared to give his best in Germany, which is where the Cup was held that year. 

Walking around in the city’s downtown I came across this painting on a building which featured images of several players on Brazil’s seleção (national team). The paintings were those sort of exaggerated caricatures where the artist exaggerates the features of the players. Of course, the artist took liberty to expand on Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s teeth, but then there was Ronaldo, unlike other players shown in action or standing, shown laying on his side rubbing a protruding belly under his jersey. 

fat ronaldo - THE SUN

In 2011, even an article by The Sun got in on the “fat Ronaldo” discussion, placing him at the top of 10 of the fattest footballers on a list that included fellow black Brazilian Adriano, who came in at number 8. Well, maybe we should just say fellow Brazilian as it appears that Ronaldo still doesn’t see himself as black. I mean, he didn’t exactly say this, but in a round about way, one could interpret his recent comment that way. Check the piece below and tell me what you think. 

o jogador, Ronaldo Fenômeno
Former futebol star Ronaldo

“If you are black or gay, they defend you,” says Ronaldo on fatphobia, once again ignoring being black

Courtesy of Notícia Preta

Once again the former player Ronaldo the Phenomenon (Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima) denies being black. In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Ronaldo criticized Brazil’s militancy movements, that are, according to him, selective to minorities and recalled the era in which he was over the weight considered ideal for an athlete and “no one was defending him.”

“There are mobilizations for many things. If you’re black, if you’re gay…I don’t remember anyone defending me when they called me fat. I don’t care,” said Ronaldo.

nelio-nazario_desabafo
Nélio Nazário, Ronaldo’s father

“Being black in this country is one of the worst things in the world”

In 2005 when Ronaldo still played for Real Madrid and on the Brazilian national team, he made an unfortunate comment about racial discrimination in futebol stadiums: “I think all blacks suffer (with racism). Eu, que sou branco, sofro com tamanha ignorância (I, who am white, suffer with such ignorance),” said the player at the time.

Ronaldo father incident 2015
Headline: “Ronaldo’s father says he was a victim of racism in the building where he lives” – “Being black in this country is one of the worst things in this world”, huffed Nélio Nazário

Ten years later, in 2015, Ronaldo’s father, Nélio Nazário, was a victim of racism in the luxury condominium where he lives in Rio de Janeiro. Annoyed by the prejudice against the color of his skin, Nélio made an inflamed outburst in his profile on Facebook: “Being black in this country is one of the worst things in the world. Now it’s happened to me one of the worst things in the world about racism. I was waiting for the social elevator, since I live in the penthouse, but to my surprise nobody came with me, they preferred the service elevator. But black is black anywhere. And never be afraid or ashamed of your blackness,” he wrote.

The history of embranquecimento (whitening) in Brazil

Ronaldo reveals an attitude that many black men and black women have: the difficulty in assuming their blackness. And this can be “explained”, but never justified, by several arguments, but always taking into account the history of this country.

An example is the result of the 1980 census, when after years in which the race/color item was excluded from the research by the dictatorship, about 50% of the population answered the question with 136 different colors. The self-definitions that, as noted in the book Retrato do Brasil (Portrait of Brazil), 1985, show that the Brazilian tries to approach, through symbolism of escape, a model considered as “superior”, which is white, their ethnic truth.

Ronaldo’s statement today is obviously a much more serious one than is revealed by a survey conducted 34 years ago. For in this space of time there was a great advance in the racial consciousness in the country, thanks to the constant struggle of the black movement. Moreover, Ronaldo, unlike the majority of the black population in Brazil, is part of an economic elite and precisely for this reason would not need to pretend not to be what everyone perceives when they see him: his blackness.

Note from BW of Brazil: The question here in considering Ronaldo’s recent statement is the fact that he spoke on not being defended by any sorts of minority rights movements such as those for black people or persons that are LGBT. I’ve never heard Ronaldo acknowledge himself as gay, although he was the subject of questioning due to an incident in 2008 in which he picked up a transvestite to spend the night with after having a fight with his then girlfriend in 2008. The transvestite called another two to the motel and suddenly Ronaldo perceived that the three weren’t actually women. One of the transvestites said Ronaldo had sex with two of the others even knowing they were men and the player’s girlfriend broke up with him after the incident made the news. 

Anyway, the point here is that in Ronaldo’s comment, he seemed to be saying that these social movements defend individuals that identity as black or LGBT, apparently, neither of which he identifies himself as, although he did acknowledge himself as being overweight. After all, if he were black, one of these movements would defend him, right? But then again, maybe not if he considers his social stigma as being fat. So what do you think? Did Ronaldo once again avoid defining himself as black without actually saying it? All I can say about the whole thing is…negro please!

Source: Notícia Preta

About Marques Travae 3149 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

3 Comments

  1. He probably thinks if he says it enough times and with enough conviction ppl will start agreeing with him. I am not sure on what planet he is white, but it sure ain’t this one. Too many of these black men think whiteness is sexually transmitted, until they receive their n!gg@ wakeup call. His poor father, in the penthouse in a lovely building I am sure and still ostracized by the residents because he is out of his place.

    • Ya know, in the world of Brazilians who have phenotypes that denote African ancestry, having money may shield them from aspects of racism that poorer black people can’t access. I don’t know if Ronaldo has ever experienced the racism of the blatant variety, but it seems that people have allowed him to “pass” for some time.

      Also, when Ronaldo made that statement about being white in 2005, his father said on Globo’s Fantástico news journal that Ronaldo is black and he knows it. Interesting.

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