‘This is absurd, a lie’ – Neymar attacks Nike over claims they ended sponsorship deal following sexual assault investigation

The sportswear giant ended their deal with the Brazilian in August 2020, and he has criticised their newly revealed reasons for doing so

Neymar has slammed claims by Nike that they ended their sponsorship deal with him because he refused to co-operate in an internal investigation after a company employee accused the footballer of sexual assault.

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 since told the Wall Street Journal that an allegation made against the Brazil international was a factor.

Neymar has now angrily denied the allegation, accusing Nike of “distorting” reality and the nature of their business dealings. He also claimed that accusations he failed to co-operate are a lie, says he does not know the person who claims he assaulted her, and says he subsequently took part in adverts with Nike without any issues being raised.

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What has Neymar said?

In a lengthy statement posted to his Instagram page, the PSG and Brazil star wrote: “Facts can be distorted because people see them from different angles. We cannot deny that life is like that. It’s part of it! I even understand when someone criticises my behavior, my way of playing and living life. We are different!

“I really don’t understand how a serious company can distort a business relationship that is supported by documents. Written words cannot be modified. They are very clear indeed. Leave no doubt!

“Since I was 13, when I signed my first contract, I’ve always been warned: don’t talk about your contracts! Contracts are confidential! To go contrary to this rule and claim that my contract was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation, this is absurd, a lie.

“Once again I am warned that I cannot comment in public. Indignant, I will obey, but the WSL story is very clear. In 2016, it seems that they already knew about this event. I did not know! In 2017 I traveled again to the US for an advertising campaign, with the same people, they told me nothing, nothing changed!

“In 2017, 2018, 2019 we made trips, campaigns, countless recording sessions, and they told me nothing. A matter of such gravity and they did nothing. Who are truly responsible?

“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to know who this person was who was offended. I don’t even know her. I’ve never had a relationship with her. I didn’t even have the opportunity to talk, to know the real reasons for her pain. That person, an employee, was not protected. I, a sponsored athlete, was not protected. Until when?

“Irony of fate I will continue to wear a mark on my chest that betrayed me. This is the life! I remain firm and strong, believing that time, always this cruel time, will bring the true answers. Faith in God!”

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. 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. Nike continues to be the kit sponsor for both PSG and the Brazilian national team.

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