Nike says it split with soccer superstar Neymar after he refused to cooperate with sexual assault investigation

Nike said it ended its partnership with Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. — better known simply as Neymar — when the soccer superstar refused to cooperate with an investigation into sexual assault allegations against him.

“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,” Nike said in a late Thursday statement.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

The company announced last summer it had parted ways with Neymar but had not given a reason for the sudden move. The Journal reported that, at the time, there were still eight years left in Neymar’s contract with Nike.

The company said it was “deeply disturbed” by an incident that the employee alleged occurred in 2016.

A spokeswoman for Neymar told the WSJ that he denies the allegations. CNBC was not immediately able to make contact with representatives for the athlete.

Nike said the employee reported the allegations in 2018 and initially wanted to keep it confidential and avoid an investigation. As a result, Nike said it did not share details with law enforcement or a third party, out of respect for the employee’s privacy.

Nike said it commissioned an independent investigation into the allegations in 2019 when the employee expressed interest in pursuing the matter. The company said, however, the investigation was inconclusive.

“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,” the company said.

In 2017, Neymar left Spanish club FC Barcelona to join Paris Saint Germain for a record transfer fee of $263 million.

— CNBC’s Jessica Golden contributed to this report.

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