SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Nike Inc is “very concerned” about a rape accusation against Brazilian soccer star Neymar, the world’s largest sportswear maker said on Thursday, raising questions about its sponsorship of one of the sport’s most famous players.
Brazilian soccer player Neymar arrives at a police station in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau
Neymar denies the allegation of rape and has said the woman was trying to extort him. The woman appeared on Brazilian TV on Wednesday and said Neymar raped her in a Paris hotel.
Mastercard Inc also canceled a planned ad campaign featuring the star of the Brazilian national team and French club Paris Saint-Germain, Brazilian media reported on Thursday.
Mastercard said in a statement it was suspending its use of Neymar in advertising until the situation is “cleared up,” according to reports in Brazil’s three biggest newspapers. The Nike statement said “we are very concerned” by the allegations “and will continue to closely monitor the situation.”
A press representative for Mastercard in Brazil confirmed to Reuters the company had planned a campaign to coincide with this month’s Copa America tournament, but she did not confirm a decision to suspend Neymar’s role.
U.S. press representatives for the company did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
A police report seen by Reuters showed that a woman had accused Neymar, 27, of raping her at a Paris hotel last month. Sao Paulo police are investigating the accusation.
Following media reports on the matter, Neymar posted a long video on Instagram, in which he denied the accusations, said he was a victim of extortion and shared messages he exchanged with the alleged victim, including racy photos he had received.
That led police in Rio de Janeiro to open an investigation into whether Neymar had committed a crime by posting those intimate pictures online.
A press representative for Neymar did not respond to requests for comment on the Mastercard sponsorship on a Wednesday night interview his accuser gave the SBT TV station.
“I was a victim of rape,” she said in her first on-camera interview since her accusation became public.
She said that she and Neymar began exchanging private messages over social media, and that he paid for her flight to Paris and her hotel. She said the relationship was consensual at first, but that Neymar quickly became aggressive, began to hit her and forced her to have sex with him without the use of a condom, despite her telling him repeatedly to stop.
Some of Neymar’s teammates have come out in support of him, but national team coach Tite declined to pass judgment on the matter.
The Brazilian Football Confederation said on Thursday that Neymar would be dropped from the national team for the Copa America because of an ankle injury suffered in a friendly match against Qatar the night before.
Reporting by Brad Brooks and Eduardo Simões, Brad Haynes; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Grant McCool