The sportswear giant looked into a report by an employee that the Brazilian attacked her, an allegation which he denies
Neymar was dropped from his sponsorship deal by sportswear giant Nike because he refused to co-operate with an investigation into a sexual assault allegation made by an employee, the company has said, a claim that has been denied by the Paris Saint-Germain star.
The incident is alleged to have taken place in 2016 and the investigation was launched in 2018, with Nike saying the outcome was inconclusive.
The company split with Neymar in August 2020 with no reason given at the time, however, Nike has now told the Wall Street Journal that the allegation made against the Brazil international was a factor.
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What has Neymar said?
A spokesperson for the footballer has denied the allegations, saying he and Nike split for purely commercial reasons having been in discussions over the deal since 2019.
“Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far,” they said. “It is very strange a case that was supposed to have happened in 2016, with allegations by a Nike employee, come to light only at that moment."
They also referenced a similar accusation made against Neymar by a woman in 2019. The accuser, a Brazilian model, alleged the footballer had raped her at a Paris hotel. The case was later dropped due to lack of evidence.
The spokesperson added: “Similar to the sexual assault allegations made against him in 2019 - allegations which the Brazilian authorities found Neymar Jr. innocent - these allegations are false.”
What has Nike said?
“Nike ended its relationship with the athlete because he refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an employee,” said Hilary Krane, Nike’s general counsel.
She said Nike had not previously discussed the allegations as a reason for no longer working with Neymar because “no single set of facts emerged that would enable us to speak substantively on the matter. It would be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory statement without being able to provide supporting facts.”
Krane said the delay in the allegations coming to light was due to the employee originally making the complaint in 2018 under condition that her identity be kept confidential.
She said: “As her employer, we had a responsibility to respect her privacy and did not believe it was appropriate to share that information with law enforcement or any third party without the employee’s consent.
“In 2019, when the employee later expressed interest in pursuing the matter, we acted immediately. From the very beginning, we have treated the employee’s allegations and her experience with great seriousness.”
What has been Neymar's relationship with Nike?
Neymar, now 29, signed with Nike at age 13, and was the face of the brand across much of South America.
He later moved to Barcelona - where he was playing at the time of the allegations- before becoming the most expensive footballer in history when he signed for PSG in 2017 in a €222 million (£200m/$262m) deal. He recently signed a new contract in Paris until 2025.
After leaving Nike, he signed a sponsorship deal with Puma in September 2020. Wall Street Journal said Puma declined to comment.
Nike continues to be the kit sponsor for both PSG and the Brazilian national team.