Last year, Nike and Paris Saint-Germain winger Neymar abruptly parted ways, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the split happened amid an investigation into allegations made by an employee that the Brazilian player sexually assaulted her.
The Wall Street Journal reviewed documents and spoke with "people familiar with the matter" when reporting the story. The incident itself happened in 2016 when an allegedly intoxicated Neymar tried to force the Nike employee to perform oral sex on him in a New York City hotel room, according to the report. The employee also alleges that he tried to block the door to prevent her from leaving the room, and chased her down the hotel hallway while undressed.
Neymar's camp vehemently denies these allegations, and notes that the split happened as a result of commercial reasons.
"Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far," a spokeswoman for the player told the WSJ.
The Nike employee filed her complaint in 2018, and an investigation began in 2019, per the report. The investigation continued through 2020, where Nike realized that Neymar was not going to cooperate with the investigation, thus resulting in him getting dropped.
Nike released the following statement to CBS Sports:
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. 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 recognize that this has been a long and difficult experience for her.
Neymar signed with Puma a couple weeks after he was dropped from Nike. In 2019, Neymar was accused of raping a Brazilian model in a Paris hotel room. The player countered that the event was consensual, and even released screenshots of the conversations the two had, which included explicit photos of the woman. The case against Neymar was dropped, and Brazilian authorities then charged the woman with slander, extortion and procedural fraud, all of which were either dismissed, or later dropped on acquittal.