Nike says it broke up with football superstar Neymar after he refused to cooperate in sexual assault investigation

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

“Nike has terminated its relationship with the athlete for refusing to cooperate with a good faith investigation into credible allegations of employee misconduct,” Nike said in a belated statement Thursday.

The Wall Street Journal first reported the news.

The company announced it had parted ways with Neymar last summer, but had not given any reason for the sudden move. The Journal reported that at that point 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 said took place in 2016.

A spokeswoman for Neymar told the WSJ he denies the allegations. CNBC was unable to contact the athlete’s representatives directly.

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 has not shared any details with law enforcement or any third party, out of respect for the employee’s privacy.

Nike said it ordered an independent inquiry into the allegations in 2019 when the employee expressed interest in investigating the matter further. However, the company said the investigation was inconclusive.

“No set of facts has emerged that would allow us to discuss the matter substantively. 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.

— Jessica Golden of CNBC contributed to this report.

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