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Neymar's Nike Contract Was Terminated After Employee Alleged Sexual Assault

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVMay 28, 2021

AP Photo/Thibault Camus

While Nike didn't publicly announce why it terminated its marketing deal with soccer star Neymar in August 2020, it did so because of an allegation of sexual assault.

Khadeeja Safdar of the Wall Street Journal reported a Nike employee said Neymar attempted to force her to perform oral sex in 2016. The employee filed a complaint in 2018, and Nike hired Cooley LLP to investigate in 2019 and eventually ended the relationship with Neymar in 2020.

"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," Hilary Krane, Nike's general counsel, said.

Krane also said the company didn't publicly discuss the decision at the time 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."

Safdar reported there were still eight years remaining on the Brazilian soccer star's deal.

"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 29-year-old said while suggesting the two sides parted ways for commercial reasons.

The woman who made the allegations still works at Nike and said Neymar attempted to force her to perform oral sex on a marketing trip to New York City in 2016.

She said she and another Nike employee were asked to help Neymar, who appeared to be intoxicated at the time, back to his hotel room during one night on the trip. She said it was in the room that he tried to block her exit and then chased her in the hallway while he was undressed.

Safdar noted a Brazilian model accused Neymar of rape at a Paris hotel in 2019. The soccer star said it was consensual, and Brazilian authorities eventually dropped the case.

The model was charged with slander, extortion and procedural fraud, although the first two charges were dismissed in 2019, and she was acquitted of the latter charge in 2020.

The Nike employee asked about her own complaint regarding Neymar following the other rape allegations and was told by executives they did not immediately follow up because they thought she did not want them to take action.

"In 2019, when the employee later expressed interest in pursuing the matter, we acted immediately," Krane said. "From the very beginning, we have treated the employee's allegations and her experience with great seriousness."

Neymar signed with Nike when he was 13 years old.

He finalized an endorsement deal with Puma after Nike ended its relationship with him.

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