June 6, 2019 / 2:54 PM / 6 months ago

Nike 'very concerned' about rape accusation against Brazilian soccer star Neymar

(Corrects name of Neymar’s lawyer in paragraph six to Maira Fernandes)

Brazilian soccer player Neymar leaves the police station after testifying in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil June 6, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Landau

By Nivedita Balu and Eduardo Simões

(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.

Nike issued a statement a day after a woman said in an interview with Brazilian SBT TV that Neymar had raped her in a Paris hotel last month. Neymar denied the allegation in an Instagram post and has said the woman was trying to extort him.

The lawyer for Neymar’s accuser did not respond to questions from Reuters.

“We are very concerned by the recent allegations and will continue to closely monitor the situation,” Nike said when asked about the accusation against Neymar, who plays his club soccer with French champions Paris Saint-Germain.

A press representative for Neymar declined to comment on his sponsorships.

Neymar’s lawyer Maira Fernandes, speaking to journalists in Rio de Janeiro on Thursday, did not address his sponsorship deals. She said her client was innocent of the allegation made against him.

A press representative for Mastercard in Brazil confirmed to Reuters that the company had planned an advertising campaign to coincide with this month’s Copa America tournament but she did not confirm reports in Brazil’s three biggest newspapers that Mastercard had decided to suspend Neymar’s featuring in it.

U.S. press representatives for Mastercard did not reply to requests for comment.

Brazilian airline Gol Linhas Aereas Inteligentes SA, which featured Neymar in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup, said it was a sponsor of the national team but not individual players. A press representative declined to comment on the accusation against Neymar.

McDonald’s Corp and Procter & Gamble Co’s Gillette brand, which both featured Neymar prominently in ad campaigns last year, said they had no current contract with him.

POLICE REPORT

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. According to the police report, she told investigators that she met Neymar on Instagram. Neymar suggested they meet in person in Paris and he paid for her flight and her hotel room, the report said.

After media reports on the allegation, Neymar posted a video on Instagram, in which he denied the accusations, said he was a victim of extortion and shared messages he exchanged with the woman, 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.

Neymar’s lawyer Fernandes said that Neymar had already spoken with police investigating the cyber crime, but had not yet arranged a time to go to Sao Paulo to speak with police about the rape accusation, but was committed to doing so.

On Wednesday night the woman, Najila de Souza, gave her first on-camera interview since her accusation became public.

Slideshow (7 Images)

“I was a victim of rape,” de Souza told SBT TV.

Some of Neymar’s teammates have come out in support of him, but national team coach Tite told journalists on Monday that he did not want to pass judgment on the matter.

The Brazilian Football Confederation said on Thursday that Neymar would be dropped from the Brazil team for the Copa America because of an ankle injury suffered in a friendly match against Qatar.

Reporting by Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Eduardo Simões in Sao Paulo; additional reporting by Gabriel Stargardter in Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Rochabrun, Brad Brooks and Brad Haynes in Sao Paulo; editing by Grant McCool

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