Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar is annoyed with Nike, for mis-handling a Nike employee’s allegations of indecent assault against him and for disputing reasons about their parting of ways. Neymar challenged Nike, his former sponsor, for lying about reasons for the split and that it knew about allegations against him, before any action was initiated. A serious matter but nothing was done. “Who is really responsible?” he asked.
Nike ended Neymar’s endorsement deal for not cooperating in a company investigation about indecent assault during a 2016 publicity tour in New York. Neymar denied the allegations, charging Nike’s general counsel for improperly and irresponsibly discussing reasons for contract termination for commercial reasons and an absurd lie to say the termination was for not contributing to an investigation. A Nike spokeswoman declined to comment. Nike confirmed that an employee alleged innocent assault in 2016, filing a complaint in 2018. In 2019, Nike investigated, ending the Neymar relationship in 2020, for having failed to cooperate with the probe.
Nike was disturbed by such allegations as investigations were inconclusive and Nike respecting employee confidentiality recognized the long and difficult experience for her. Nike hired Cooley LLP, a law firm in 2019, to conduct independent investigations. Cooley lawyers interviewed witnesses, including Nike employees. Neymar refused to be interviewed by Nike’s investigators while his representatives disputed the woman’s account during the Cooley probe.
Neymar alleged Nike failed to inform him about the incident despite campaigns, trips, and recording sessions in 2018 and 2019. Neymar said “I had no opportunity to defend myself and their employee, was not protected. I, a sponsored athlete, was not protected.” Neymar’s father, felt that Nike was blackmailing his son and said that they were “surprised by the incident that took place in 2016, and no one remembers this fact anymore. It was considered strange. Neymar doesn’t even know this girl. Of course it came from Nike after our departure”. A Nike spokeswoman failed to comment on remarks of Neymar Sr.
The Joys of Sponsors?
Neymar’s other sponsors including Puma SE, PokerStars and Epic Games Inc. (Fortnite videogame), offered no comments. Red Bull, the energy drinks maker said Neymar was with them since 2010 and public authorities should determine facts behind these serious allegations. PSG offers no comments and is in a jam between their star and Nike, a long-time sponsor since decades. Neymar wrote “ An irony of fate to stamp a brand on my chest which betrayed me”. PSG has been Nike’s most valuable soccer property since the 1990s, renewing its agreement in 2019, after allegations against Neymar surfaced internally. The current contract of his runs expires in 2032. In an intensely competitive market, Nike’s Paris approach stands out.
Nike seeks to position PSG not only in sports apparel but as a lifestyle brand. PSG gear has adorned Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, and Beyoncé, while PSG plays prestigious Champions League matches in Nike’s Jordan Brand jerseys. Neymar, with his mass following, and global appeal remained the perfect crossover ambassador. After a contract extension recently to remain until 2025, the club backed by Qatar’s sovereign-wealth fund, tied its own identity to the 29-year-old Neymar. Neymar is now in Brazil, training with Brazil’s football team, to play for the 2022 World Cup qualifying matches.