Nike Cut up With Neymar Amid Intercourse-Assault Probe

Nike Inc. NKE -0.24% and soccer celebrity Neymar break up methods final yr after the corporate began investigating an allegation by a Nike worker that the Brazilian athlete had sexually assaulted her, based on individuals conversant in the matter and paperwork reviewed by The Wall Avenue Journal.

In August 2020, Nike didn’t publicly give a purpose for the early finish to its endorsement cope with one of many world’s most recognizable athletes. Nike’s advertising and marketing contract with Neymar had one other eight years remaining, based on an individual conversant in the matter.

The Nike worker had advised pals in addition to Nike colleagues in 2016 that Neymar tried to drive her to carry out oral intercourse in his resort room whereas in New York Metropolis the place she was serving to to coordinate occasions and logistics for Neymar and his entourage, based on the individuals, together with former and present Nike staff, and the paperwork.

Neymar denies the allegation, his spokeswoman stated. “Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself towards these baseless assaults in case any declare is offered, which didn’t occur thus far,” she stated in a press release. She stated Nike and Neymar break up for industrial causes.

The Nike worker filed a grievance to Nike in 2018 and described the incident to the corporate’s head of human assets and basic counsel, based on the individuals and paperwork. Nike employed attorneys at Cooley LLP to conduct an investigation beginning in 2019 and determined to cease that includes Neymar in advertising and marketing amid the probe, based on the individuals and paperwork.

Neymar visited New York in June 2016 to drum up pleasure for a shoe collaboration with Nike’s Jordan model.

Picture: Michael Stewart/Getty Photographs

Nike ended its relationship with Neymar in 2020 after the athlete wouldn’t cooperate with the Cooley investigation, among the individuals stated. They stated the probe wasn’t accomplished when the enterprise relationship ended.

“Nike ended its relationship with the athlete as a result of he refused to cooperate in an excellent religion investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an worker,” stated Hilary Krane, Nike’s basic counsel, in response to questions from the Journal.

Ms. Krane stated Nike didn’t beforehand talk about the matter publicly as a result of “no single set of info emerged that will allow us to talk substantively on the matter. It could be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory assertion with out having the ability to present supporting info.”

Neymar’s spokeswoman stated the 2 sides had been in discussions since 2019. “It is extremely unusual a case that was alleged to have occurred in 2016, with allegations by a Nike worker, come to gentle solely at that second,” the spokeswoman stated.

Representatives for Neymar disputed the girl’s account throughout the Cooley probe however the athlete himself refused to be interviewed by Nike’s investigators, among the individuals stated.

An legal professional for the Nike worker didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr., 29 years previous, signed with Nike at age 13, earlier than he turned knowledgeable participant in Brazil after which a star in Europe. He turned the most costly participant within the historical past of soccer when Paris Saint-Germain paid FC Barcelona a switch payment of about $260 million for him in 2017. The flashy purpose scorer is a pacesetter on the Brazilian nationwide crew and lately signed a contract extension with PSG, a high French membership, by way of 2025.

Neymar signed with Nike at age 13, earlier than he turned knowledgeable participant in Brazil after which a star in Europe.

Picture: Christopher Pillitz/Getty Photographs

Neymar was the face of the Nike model in South America with signature sneakers and attire collections and was amongst Nike’s highest-paid athletes when the connection ended. “Neymar Jr. will now not be a Nike participant as of August 31, 2020,” a Nike spokesman stated that month.

About two weeks later, on Sept. 12, Puma SE PUM -0.64% introduced it had an endorsement cope with Neymar. “Welcome to the fam @neymarjr #KingIsBack,” the official Puma account tweeted. Puma has since launched signature Neymar sneakers and the athlete has appeared in advertising and marketing for the German firm, a smaller rival to Nike and Adidas AG. ADDYY 0.36%

A spokeswoman for Puma declined to remark.

Neymar mentioned his transfer to Puma in a message final September. “I grew up watching movies of nice soccer legends comparable to Pelé, Cruyff, Matthäus, Eusébio and Maradona,” he wrote. “I want to carry again the legacy that these athletes created on the pitch. They every performed in Puma, and every of them created their magic within the King.”

Neymar has greater than 150 million followers on Instagram. Together with Puma, he has advertising and marketing partnerships with Purple Bull, Qatar Airways and PokerStars, based on his web site. In current months, Neymar unveiled advertising and marketing offers with attire model SuperDry and Epic Video games Inc., maker of the favored “Fortnite” videogame.

Neymar traveled to New York Metropolis in late Could and early June 2016 on a Nike publicity marketing campaign the place he visited Citi Subject and met with basketball nice Michael Jordan to drum up pleasure for a shoe collaboration between Nike’s Jordan model and the soccer star.

The lady, a longtime Nike worker who remains to be employed on the sneaker large, was working with different Nike staff to coordinate logistics for Neymar and his entourage for the Jordan occasion in Manhattan, the individuals stated. The group celebrated that night on the Up & Down nightclub, the individuals stated.

After midnight, within the early hours of June 2, resort employees requested the girl together with one other Nike worker to assist Neymar, who seemed to be intoxicated, into his room on the resort, the girl advised pals and Nike colleagues that evening and in subsequent days. She advised these those that when she was briefly left alone within the room with Neymar, he took off his underwear and tried to drive her to carry out oral intercourse. She stated Neymar tried to dam her from leaving the room after which chased her down the resort hallway whereas he was nonetheless undressed.

The worker shared the incident with a number of pals, members of the family and Nike staff that evening and within the following days and weeks, the individuals stated.

The worker made a grievance in 2018 when different girls at Nike had been stepping ahead to share experiences of harassment and discrimination as a part of a survey in regards to the therapy of girls on the firm, based on the individuals and paperwork.

On the time, the worker shared particulars in regards to the alleged incident with Monique Matheson, the top of Nike’s human assets division, and Ms. Krane, Nike’s basic counsel, based on the individuals and paperwork.

Neymar continued to seem in advertising and marketing for Nike the next yr. Across the time of the ladies’s World Cup in France, Neymar appeared in a June 2019 Nike industrial about feminine athletes and their goals.

Additionally in June 2019, one other lady accused Neymar of rape at a Paris resort a month earlier. Neymar stated the encounter with the girl, a Brazilian mannequin, was consensual and he accused her of making an attempt to extort him. The Brazilian authorities dropped the investigation of Neymar, citing an absence of proof.

Authorities in Brazil later charged the mannequin with slander, extortion and procedural fraud. The slander and extortion costs had been dismissed in 2019 and she or he was acquitted of the fraud cost in 2020. A spokeswoman for the mannequin stated she stands by her authentic account of what occurred.

In June 2019 after the Brazilian mannequin made her public allegation, the Nike worker approached Ms. Krane and Ms. Matheson to ask the standing of the grievance she made about Neymar a yr earlier, based on the individuals and paperwork. Nike executives advised the worker they hadn’t taken any motion as a result of they’d been below the impression she didn’t need them to, the individuals stated.

Puma introduced it had an endorsement cope with Neymar in September 2020.

Picture: John Berry/Getty Photographs

Ms. Krane stated that when the worker first relayed her allegations to Nike’s management in 2018, she did so on the situation of confidentiality. “As her employer, we had a accountability to respect her privateness and didn’t imagine it was acceptable to share that data with legislation enforcement or any third occasion with out the worker’s consent,” Ms. Krane stated.

“In 2019, when the worker later expressed curiosity in pursuing the matter, we acted instantly,” Ms. Krane stated. “From the very starting, now we have handled the worker’s allegations and her expertise with nice seriousness.”

In 2019, Nike ramped up its investigation into the 2016 incident, and attorneys from Cooley carried out interviews with witnesses, together with Nike staff, the individuals stated and paperwork present. Nike helped the worker retain counsel, and Nike agreed to pay her authorized charges, the individuals stated and paperwork present.

Cooley lawyer Amanda Primary stated her agency “carried out an in depth and thorough investigation, each inside the firm and thru exterior sources.”

Neymar’s spokeswoman stated, “Much like the sexual assault allegations made towards him in 2019—allegations which the Brazilian authorities discovered Neymar Jr. harmless—these allegations are false.”

Nike is the jersey sponsor for Neymar’s membership Paris Saint-Germain.

Picture: paul ellis/Agence France-Presse/Getty Photographs

In conferences with Nike executives, the girl requested that Nike inform the general public that Neymar’s conduct didn’t align with its values, begin imposing morality clauses in athlete contracts and undertake a code of conduct for endorsement offers, the individuals stated.

On Aug. 30, Nike confirmed that Neymar was now not with the model. It made no point out of the explanations for his departure.

Nike continues to be the jersey sponsor for each Neymar’s membership Paris Saint-Germain and the Brazilian nationwide crew, which means its swoosh brand nonetheless seems on uniforms with Neymar’s identify and his quantity, 10.

Write to Khadeeja Safdar at khadeeja.safdar@wsj.com

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