Nike said it cut ties with Neymar last year because the Brazilian soccer superstar refused to cooperate with an inconclusive investigation into sexual assault allegations made by one of the company’s employees.
The sports apparel giant confirmed in a statement to CNN Business late Thursday that its decision stemmed from accusations a Nike employee brought to the company in 2018. The incident allegedly occurred in 2016.
Nike (NKE) said the employee initially wanted to keep the incident confidential, but in 2019 decided to pursue an investigation. Nike (NKE) says it commissioned an independent probe and retained separate, independent legal counsel for the employee. She selected the counsel and the company paid for the expense, Nike (NKE) said.
“From the very beginning, we have treated the employee’s allegations and her experience with great seriousness,” the company said in a statement to CNN Business. Nike did not name the employee, and CNN Business does not generally name individuals who claim to be the victims of sexual assaults.
Nike said that the investigation was “inconclusive,” adding that “it would be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory statement without being able to provide supporting facts.”
But the company added that it ended its relationship with Neymar “because he refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an employee.”
Dayane Crespo, Neymar’s representative, told CNN Business that the Paris Saint-Germain player denies the allegations, adding that his relationship with Nike was ended “for commercial reasons.”
“Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any allegations be made, which has not happened so far,” the representative added. “It is quite strange that a case that supposedly happened in 2016, with allegations made by a Nike employee, appears only at this moment.”
Neymar’s father, Neymar da Silva Santos, also denied the latest accusations against his son in an interview with the Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, saying “we were surprised” and “Neymar doesn’t even know this girl.” CNN Business has reached out to the father for comment.
News of the alleged 2016 incident, and Nike’s reasons for terminating its relationship with Neymar, were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal report shed new light on the end of a partnership between Neymar and Nike that had lasted for 15 years. The athlete’s departure from Nike was made public late last summer, around the same time Puma announced that it had signed him. Puma did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Neymar was previously accused of rape by a Brazilian woman in 2019, though he has vehemently denied all allegations against him.