Brazilian football player 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 St Germain, denies the allegations. The incident allegedly took place in 2016 but the employee initially requested to keep the matter confidential and Nike only opened its investigation in 2019 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". However, Neymar denied the allegations and said he did not know the employee in question.
"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."