New Delhi [India], May 29 (ANI): Brazil and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) striker Neymar has hit back at Nike after the company claimed that the sponsorship deal with the player was called off because he refused to co-operate in an internal investigation after a company employee allegedly accused him of sexual assault.
In 2020, Neymar's 15-year-long association with Nike came to an end. The company had signed on with the Brazilian striker when he was just 13. A female employee of Nike had told friends and colleagues that Neymar tried to force her for oral sex in 2016 during a company's event in New York, according to The Wall Street Journal as reported by ESPN.
Neymar has released a lengthy statement on his Instagram which reads: "Facts can be distorted because people see them from different angles. We cannot deny that life is like that. It's part of it! I even understand when someone criticises my behavior, my way of playing and living life. We are different! I really don't understand how a serious company can distort a business relationship that is supported by documents. Written words cannot be modified. They are very clear indeed. Leave no doubt."
"Since I was 13, when I signed my first contract, I've always been warned: don't talk about your contracts! Contracts are confidential! To go contrary to this rule and claim that my contract was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation, this is absurd, a lie. Once again I am warned that I cannot comment in public. Indignant, I will obey, but the WSL story is very clear. In 2016, it seems that they already knew about this event. I did not know! In 2017 I traveled again to the US for an advertising campaign, with the same people, they told me nothing, nothing changed."
Further in his statement, Neymar went on to blame Nike as well, saying: "In 2017, 2018, 2019 we made trips, campaigns, countless recording sessions, and they told me nothing. A matter of such gravity and they did nothing. Who are truly responsible? I was not given the opportunity to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to know who this person was who was offended. I don't even know her."
"I've never had a relationship with her. I didn't even have the opportunity to talk, to know the real reasons for her pain. That person, an employee, was not protected. I, a sponsored athlete, was not protected. Until when? Irony of fate I will continue to wear a mark on my chest that betrayed me. This is the life! I remain firm and strong, believing that time, always this cruel time, will bring the true answers. Faith in God," he added.
Earlier, the Wall Street Journal reported that a complaint was filed by the Nike employee in 2018 and the company roped in a law firm to investigate the matter. Nike then eventually decided to stop promoting Neymar in its marketing campaigns amid the probe.
"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, told the Journal as quoted by ESPN.
However, a spokesman for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) star denied that the cause of ending the partnership wasn't due to the allegation leveled against him.
"Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far," the spokesman told the Journal, adding that the split was due to commercial reasons as quoted by ESPN.
Neymar has won several trophies in Brazil, Spain, and France, as well as the Champions League and the Copa Libertadores. He also won the Olympic gold with the Brazilian national team in 2016.
Earlier this month, Neymar Jr signed a contract extension for a further three seasons with PSG. Neymar has won 9 trophies so far with the Rouge & Bleu: three Ligue 1 titles (2018, 2019 & 2020), two Coupes de France (2018 & 2020), two Coupes de la Ligue (2018, & 2020) and two Trophees des Champions (2018 & 2020). (ANI)