Nike has announced that Neymar’s lucrative sponsorship deal was terminated after he “refused to cooperate” in an internal sexual assault investigation involving himself and an employee.
The Brazilian forward was first signed by Nike at the age of 13 and his most recent 11-year contract, worth a reported $105 million (£74 million/€86 million), was due to run until 2022.
But the sports giant ended the deal last September and the Paris Saint-Germain player subsequently signed a contract with Puma.
Nike did not disclose a reason for dropping Neymar at the time but The Wall Street Journal has revealed the decision followed an investigation into allegations the 29-year-old had sexually assaulted a female employee.
The Nike employee alleged that in 2016 Neymar attempted to force her to perform oral sex in his hotel room after a promotional event in New York.
It was alleged that, after taking off his underwear, the Brazilian attempted to block her from leaving the room and chased her down the hallway.
The employee made a complaint to Nike in 2018 and an internal investigation was launched the following year, with a team of independent lawyers conducting interviews with witnesses.
Nike has confirmed that the findings from the investigation were “inconclusive” but said it had dropped Neymar because he “refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an employee”.
A spokeswoman for Neymar has denied the allegations.
“Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far,” she said.
Neymar won home Olympic gold with Brazil at Rio 2016 and his transfer from Barcelona to Paris for £198 million ($280 million/€230 million) in 2017 makes him the world’s most expensive player.
“Nike was deeply disturbed by sexual assault allegations made by one of our own employees against Neymar Jr,” a statement said.
“The alleged incident occurred in 2016 and was officially reported to Nike in 2018.
“The employee came forward to share her experience in a forum created by Nike leadership to afford a safe environment in which current and former employees could confidentially share their experiences and concerns.
“From the very beginning, we have treated the employee’s allegations and her experience with great seriousness.
“When the employee first relayed her allegations to Nike’s leadership in 2018, she did so only with assurances of confidentiality.
“While Nike was prepared and ready to investigate at that time, Nike respected the employee’s initial desire to keep this matter confidential and avoid an investigation.
“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.
“Nike commissioned an independent investigation and retained separate independent legal counsel for the employee, of her choosing and at the company’s expense.” (BBC)