Nike have announced they sacked Neymar last year after he ‘refused to cooperate’ in an internal sexual assault investigation involving himself and an employee.
The PSG star had a lucrative £78.6m sponsorship deal with Nike, which was due to run until 2022, but ended his partnership with the American brand last September before signing a money-spinning deal to become the new face of Puma.
Nike did not disclose a reason at the time for dropping Neymar, who they had first signed as a 13-year-old, but have now revealed the early end to their endorsement deal came about following an investigation into allegations that the 29-year-old had sexually assaulted a female employee.
Neymar was axed by Nike after he ‘refused to cooperate’ in a sexual assault investigation following allegations made against him from an employee
The Brazilian superstar was signed by Nike as a 13-year-old and his £78.6m sponsorship deal with them was due to run for another two years before they split last year
According to The Wall Street Journal, the Nike employee alleged that in 2016 Neymar attempted to force her to perform oral sex in his hotel room while in New York City for a promotional event and after taking off his underwear had tried to block her from leaving the room before chasing her down the hallway.
Neymar, 29, has denied the allegations against him. ‘Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far,’ his spokeswoman said in a statement.
She also added that Neymar and Nike had ended their 16-year association for commercial reasons.
The employee lodged an official complaint to Nike in 2018 before the sportswear giant launched an internal investigation into the allegations the following year.
They hired independent lawyers to conduct interviews with witnesses and reportedly decided to stop featuring Neymar in their marketing campaigns amid the probe.
Neymar signed a money-spinning deal with Puma after his partnership with Nike ended early
Nike confirmed the investigation was ‘inconclusive’ but parted ways with Neymar after he ‘refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an employee’.
A statement from Nike read: ‘Nike was deeply disturbed by sexual assault allegations made by one of our own employees against Neymar Jr.
‘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.
Neymar is pictured with Michael Jordan (right) at a promotional event in New York in 2016
‘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.
‘The investigation was inconclusive. 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.
‘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.
‘We continue to respect the confidentiality of the employee and also recognise that this has been a long and difficult experience for her.’
After splitting with Nike, Neymar signed the largest individual sponsorship contract in sport with his boot deal with Puma said to be worth a staggering £23m deal.
Neymar was accused of rape in 2019 but was cleared of any wrongdoing.
Model Najila Trindade alleged that the football superstar had raped her in a Pairs hotel room but prosecutors dropped the case because of a lack of evidence.
Neymar said he paid for her trip to France and they had consensual sex before Ms Trindade returned to Brazil and went to a police station to accuse him of attacking her.
Neymar denied the allegations and Police in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo charged Trindade with fraud, extortion and slander in September 2019.
Neymar has denied the allegations against him while his spokeswoman said the endorsement deal ended with Nike for commercial reasons