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In 2020, Nike and Neymar parted ways. It was a shocking move considering the Paris Saint-Germain star was the brand's face in South America and had been with the company since he was 13 years old. No reason for the split was publicly given at the time, and Neymar ended up with rival Puma two weeks later.
A new report from Khadeeja Safdar of The Wall Street Journal paints that exit in a new light.
Per the Journal, Nike ended its relationship with one of the biggest athletes on its roster after one of its employees alleged he sexually assaulted her in 2016. That allegation is separate from the one filed by a Brazliian model against Neymar in 2019.
When Nike hired a law firm to investigate the employee's allegation in 2019, one year after a complaint was filed, Neymar reportedly denied the claim but refused to cooperate with the investigation.
From the Journal:
“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, in response to questions from the Journal.
Ms. Krane said Nike didn’t previously discuss the matter publicly 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.”
While that was the end of Nike's official relationship with Neymar, the brand still has its swoosh on his jerseys through partnerships with PSG and the Brazilian national team.
Neymar allegedly tried to force Nike employee to perform oral sex
The unnamed alleged victim is described in the report as a longtime Nike employee who is still employed by the company. She was reportedly helping to coordinate logistics with Neymar's team for a Jordan brand event promoting a new collaboration with the star.
Here's how she described what happened after the event, per the Journal:
After midnight, in the early hours of June 2, hotel staff asked the woman along with another Nike employee to help Neymar, who appeared to be intoxicated, into his room at the hotel, the woman told friends and Nike colleagues that night and in subsequent days. She told these people that when she was briefly left alone in the room with Neymar, he took off his underwear and tried to force her to perform oral sex. She said Neymar tried to block her from leaving the room and then chased her down the hotel hallway while he was still undressed.
The employee shared the incident with several friends, family members and Nike employees that night and in the following days and weeks, the people said.
The employee reportedly filed her complaint in 2018 when other women at Nike were stepping forward with harassment and discrimination allegations. The investigation into her claim reportedly didn't begin until another sexual assault allegation was filed against Neymar.
Despite the reports of the woman telling multiple friends, family members and colleagues about the experience, Neymar's spokeswoman reportedly pushed back against the allegation:
Neymar’s spokeswoman said the two sides had been in discussions since 2019. “It is very strange a case that was supposed to have happened in 2016, with allegations by a Nike employee, come to light only at that moment,” the spokeswoman said.
Charges were dropped against Neymar in other sexual assault case
The first known sexual assault against Neymar was an alleged rape in 2019. As the accuser reportedly described the encounter, she agreed to have sex with the star in a Paris hotel room, but changed her mind when he didn't have a condom. At that point he allegedly "turned aggressive."
"When I asked him if he brought a condom, he said no. So I told him that nothing would happen," Mendes de Souza said on Brazil’s TV SBT. "He didn't listen, he turned, and he committed the act. I said, 'Stop. Stop. No! Stop.' But he didn't say much. He only acted. I just want justice. He left me very traumatized. I want him to pay for what he did."
The charges were later dropped when prosecutors said there was no way of confirming the model's account of what happened in the room.
Prosecutors did, however, feel comfortable enough with their knowledge of what happened to charge the model with procedural fraud, slanderous denunciation and extortion. Per the Journal, the slander and extortion charges were later dismissed and the model was acquitted of the fraud charge in 2020.
The model's spokeswoman told the Journal she stands by her original account.
Neymar still raking in endorsement money
While getting dropped by Nike is now the most visible consequence Neymar has suffered for a sexual assault allegation, he remains one of the highest-paid athletes and most sought-after endorsements in the world.
By the Journal's accounting, Neymar currently has marketing deals with Red Bull, Qatar Airways, PokerStars, SuperDry and "Fortnite" publisher Epic Games, in addition to Puma.
Sportico's recent list of the world's highest-paid athletes found Neymar to be the sixth-highest paid athlete in the world, estimated to have made $100 million over the last 12 months.
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