Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo is facing a 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 to millions of his fans.

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.

Under the marketing partnership, Ronaldo encouraged millions of his fans and supporters to invest with Binance, even though many of them were unfamiliar with cryptocurrencies or the platform, the lawsuit alleges. As a result of his endorsement, his fans came away with the impression that the investments were safe — such was the case with the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, who bought products sold on Binance after seeing Ronaldo’s endorsements, it claims. 

Ultimately, they lost money, the lawsuit states.

“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.

Representatives for Ronaldo declined to comment Thursday. Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, did not immediately return requests for statement from The Associated Press.

Ronaldo isn’t the first celebrity to be sued over their involvement with the crypto world. Last year, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, supermodel Gisele Bundchen and comedian Larry David were among a star-studded list of people accused of defrauding investors who lost money in the cryptocurrency exchange’s collapse. 

The stars had appeared in a Super Bowl ad and other promotions for FTX. The suit argued that the celebrities’ status made them culpable for promoting FTX’s failed business model.

Ronaldo NFT collection

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.

NFT’s brief boom

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.

Over the summer, Binance was accused of operating as an unregistered securities exchange and violating a slew of U.S. securities laws in a lawsuit from regulators. The crypto exchange agreed last week to pay a roughly $4 billion settlement and its founder Changpeng Zhao stepped down as CEO and pleaded guilty to a felony related to his failure to prevent money laundering on the platform.

Ronaldo is one of the most recognizable and wealthiest athletes in the world. He leads his home country Portugal’s national team and has played for the Spanish team Real Madrid, the Italian club Juventus and Manchester United in England. He now plays for the Saudi Arabian professional team Al Nassr.

Ronaldo has continued to promote Binance on his official website and social media platforms. Most recently, on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) Ronaldo reposted a Binance video and wrote that he was “Cooking something up” with the crypto exchange on Tuesday.