Neymar hit back at sportswear maker Nike Inc. on Friday, saying the company’s statement that it terminated an endorsement deal because he refused to cooperate with an investigation into the alleged sexual assault of a Nike employee was “an absurd lie.”
In a story first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Nike — which had the player on a long-term contract — said it terminated the deal last year after an employee came forward with what it said were “credible” allegations against the player.
Neymar, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain, denies the allegations. He is currently training with the Brazil national team in Rio ahead of this summer’s Copa America.
“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself,” he wrote on Instagram. “I’ve never had any kind of relationship or approach from this person. I didn’t even have a chance to talk to her, to know the real reasons for her pain. That person, an employee, was not protected. I, a sponsored athlete, was not protected.”
The alleged sexual assault took place in 2016, but the employee initially requested to keep the matter confidential and Nike opened its investigation in 2019 only after the woman expressed an interest in legally pursuing the matter, according to a statement from the firm.
Nike said it had ended its relationship with Neymar in 2020 because “the athlete refused to cooperate 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.”
However, Neymar denied the allegations and said he did not know the employee in question, adding on Instagram: “I really don’t understand how a serious company can distort a business relationship that is supported by documents. Written words cannot be altered. They are very clear.
“Once again I am warned that I cannot comment in public. Against my own will, I shall obey.
“Irony of fate I will continue to stamp a brand on my chest that betrayed me. That’s life for you!
“I remain firm and strong, believing that time, always this cruel time, will bring the true answers.”
Information from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this story.