May 28 – US sportswear giant Nike says it dropped Brazilian footballer Neymar because he “refused to co-operate in a good faith investigation” into an allegation of sexual assault against an employee.
As Neymar and Brazil prepare for a busy summer with World Cup qualifiers, the Copa America and the Olympic football tournament in Tokyo, the Brazil star has become involved in another scandal after a sexual assault claim.
“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 the company in a statement.
“From the very beginning, we have treated the employee’s allegations and her experience with great seriousness.”
In 2020, Nike parted ways with the Brazilian without offering an explanation for the decision – he reportedly had a €105 million deal. The alleged incident happened in 2016 and was reported to Nike in 2018, but the sportswear giant said that its investigation was inconclusive. The story was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, but a spokesperson for Neymar said that he “will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far.”
Nike added: “It would be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory statement without being able to provide supporting facts.”
The Neymar camp has hit back at Nike and what they perceive to be false claims. Neymar’s father has accused Nike of “blackmailing” his son and claims other athletes that have left the company have also ended up facing similar accusations. He referred to both Cristiano Ronaldo and Kobe Bryant.
On social media, Brazilian super-agent and Neymar ally Wagner Ribeiro wrote: “Nike didn’t want Neymar anymore. Nike couldn’t afford to break the contract. Nike asks a girl to invent Neymar’s sexual harassment. After 5 years Nike completes the strategy and tells the story.”
It’s not the first time Neymar has been accused of sexual assault. In 2019, Neymar was accused of raping a Brazilian model in a Paris hotel room. The player countered that the event was consensual and the charges were later dropped. However, the scandal overshadowed Brazil’s preparations for the Copa America that year, a tournament that Neymar would miss because of injury.
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