Nike is known for sticking with its top sponsored athletes, but last August it dropped Neymar with a reported eight years remaining on a deal worth $210 million. A freshly revealed scandal explains why.
A Nike employee told the company that Neymar sexually assaulted her in 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal. Following her complaint, made in 2018, and an accusation of rape by a Brazilian model the next year, Nike opened an investigation into the Brazilian star.
Nike stopped featuring Neymar in marketing materials during the probe and ended their relationship in 2020 when he wouldn’t cooperate with the investigation.
Neymar denied the allegations Friday, calling it “an absurd lie.” A spokesperson said that the split happened for “commercial reasons.”
The 29-year-old had been a Nike athlete for more than half his life, signing on at 13.
- He became the most expensive player in soccer history when Paris Saint-Germain paid Barcelona a $262 million transfer fee for him.
- Earlier this month, he signed a deal to stay in Paris through 2025 for $36.5 million a season.
- Neymar’s 282 million followers across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter make him the world’s third-most popular athlete on social media and a major draw for brands.
Between salary and sponsorships, he’s the sixth-highest-paid athlete over the last year at $95 million.
After being dropped by Nike, Neymar signed a deal with Puma for a reported $32.7 million per year. He also has endorsement deals with Red Bull, Qatar Airways, PokerStars, and Epic Games, which features a Neymar skin for “Fortnite” players.
At this time, no other brands have dropped the star in light of these allegations.