UPDATED 1/11, 9:40 a.m. ET: Neymar has taken to Instagram to respond to the story about Nike ending its business relationship with him due to a lack of cooperation pertaining to an investigation into a sexual assault claim made against him by a Nike employee in 2016.
The soccer star calls the alleged lack of cooperation in the investigation, first reported by the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, an “absurd lie.”
“Ever since I was 13 years old, when I signed my first contract, I was always warned: don’t talk about your Agreements,” he said. “Agreements are confidential! Contradict this rule and state that my contract was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation, is an absurd lie.”
Not only does Neymar deny the claims made against him, but he also denies knowing his accuser.
“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself” and “I’ve never had any kind of relationship or approach from this person. I didn’t even have a chance to talk to her, to know the real reasons for her pain. That person, an employee, was not protected. I, a sponsored athlete, was not protected.”
At the time of this writing, Nike has not yet commented on Neymar’s statement. He says he’s been advised by his legal counsel to offer no further comment on his deal. However, his spokeswoman for Neymar Sport E Marketing Ltda released a full memo doubling down on his denial and riticizing Nike’s handling of this situation.
“Neymar Jr denies these allegations. Similar to the sexual assault allegations made against him in 2019 — allegations which the Brazilian authorities found Neymar Jr. innocent — these allegations are false. Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far.”
The memo goes on to criticize Nike’s handling of the situation and promises the revelation of additional information supporting Neymar’s side of the story.
“The appropriate measures are already being adopted and soon the real reasons shall be revealed and the facts clarified.”
See original story below.
Last August, Neymar stunned the sportswear world when he left his partners of 15 years at Nike to sign a rich endorsement deal with Puma. The move, first reported by Mohamed Bouhafsi, seemingly came out of nowhere, but a new report suggests a series of events actually led to Nike cutting ties with the Brazilian soccer star.
According to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Nike ended its relationship with Neymar following an investigation into an allegation by a Nike employee that he had sexually assaulted her. She allegedly told friends and Nike colleagues in 2016 that Neymar tried to force her to perform oral sex in his New York City hotel room while she was helping coordinate events and logistics for him and his entourage. A formal complaint was filed to Nike in 2018, describing the alleged incident to the company’s head of human resources and general counsel. Lawyers at Cooley LLP were hired by Nike to conduct an investigation in 2019, when Nike decided to stop featuring Neymar in marketing.
Through his spokeswoman, Neymar denied the allegation. “Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far,” she said in a statement. She also claims that Nike and Neymar split for commercial reasons.
On the other hand, people who spoke with the WSJ say that Nike ended its relationship with Neymar in 2020 after he refused to cooperate with the investigation. Additionally, they say the probe hadn’t been completed when the partnership ended.
“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, to the WSJ.
Neymar’s spokeswoman said the two sides had been in discussions since 2019. “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,” she said.
Nike has called its investigation into the assault “inconclusive,” stating that “no single set of facts emerged that would enable us to speak substantively on the matter.” The company’s full statement can be found below.
This isn’t the first time Neymar has been accused of sexual assault. In June 2019, a woman accused him of rape at a Paris hotel a month earlier. Neymar responded by saying the encounter was consensual and accused her of trying to extort him. An investigation into the claim was dropped by Brazilian authorities due to what they called a lack of evidence.
Neymar had famously signed his first endorsement deal with Nike when he was just 13 years old. His flashy goal scoring and electric personality made him one of the faces of the game throughout the years. He even landed an Air Jordan sneaker and boot collaboration in 2016.
In August 2020, a Nike spokesman confirmed that Neymar would no longer be a player for the brand without giving a reason for his departure. He signed a multi-year deal with Puma the following month. As of now, Neymar continues to wear Nike kits for the Brazilian national team and his club Paris Saint-Germain.