Nike has confirmed it ended its sponsorship agreement with Neymar after the Brazilian soccer player refused to collaborate in an investigation into an accusation that he sexually assaulted a female employee from the the company years ago.
Nike didn’t give a reason last August when it parted ways with the Paris Saint-Germain forward. But the company said in a statement Thursday that it decided to terminate the contract because Neymar refused to participate “in a good faith investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an employee.”
Nike said it could not speak in detail about the case when their deal ended because the investigation was not conclusive.
“No single set of facts emerged that would enable us to speak substantively on the matter,” Nike said. “It would be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory statement without being able to provide supporting facts.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the story on Thursday. The newspaper reported that the Nike employee had told friends as well as colleagues in 2016 that Neymar tried to force her to perform oral sex in his hotel room while in New York, where she was helping to coordinate events and logistics for the player and his entourage.
Nike said it was “deeply disturbed by sexual assault allegations” and confirmed the alleged incident took place in 2016, when Neymar played with Barcelona. Nike said it received an official notice of the incident two years later.
The company said it respected the employee’s initial desire to avoid an investigation and to keep the matter private.
“In 2019, when the employee later expressed interest in pursuing the matter, we acted immediately,” it said. “Nike commissioned an independent investigation and retained separate independent legal counsel for the employee, of her choosing and at the company’s expense.”
Neymar’s representatives declined to respond to a request for comments from The Associated Press. An unidentified spokeswoman for the player told the Wall Street Journal he denied the allegation.
“Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far,” she said.
AP Sports Writer Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.