Nike says split with Neymar over refusal to cooperate with sex assault probe

Nike says split with Neymar over refusal to cooperate with sex assault probe
Nike said Thursday it parted ways with Neymar last year after the superstar Brazil attacker "refused to cooperate in a good faith" as it investigated an employee's claim that he sexually assaulted her. (AFP)
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Updated 28 May 2021

Nike says split with Neymar over refusal to cooperate with sex assault probe

Nike says split with Neymar over refusal to cooperate with sex assault probe
  • Nike said investigation into the alleged 2016 incident, reported to the company in 2018, was inconclusive
  • Neymar’s spokeswoman said the player will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks

LOS ANGELES: Nike said Thursday it parted ways with Neymar last year after the superstar Brazil attacker “refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation.”
The company probed an employee’s claim that he sexually assaulted her.
The apparel giant said in a statement that its investigation into the alleged 2016 incident — which was reported to the company in 2018 — was inconclusive.
“No single set of facts emerged that would enable us to speak substantively on the matter,” the company said.
In a Wall Street Journal article reporting the assault allegation, a spokeswoman for Neymar said the player denies the claim.
“Neymar Jr. will vigorously defend himself against these baseless attacks in case any claim is presented, which did not happen so far,” she said in a statement, adding that Nike and Neymar split for commercial reasons.
Nike said otherwise in its statement.
“It would be inappropriate for Nike to make an accusatory statement without being able to provide supporting facts,” the company said, but added: “Nike ended its relationship with the athlete because he refused to cooperate in a good faith investigation of credible allegations of wrongdoing by an employee.”
The Wall Street Journal reported, citing documents and unnamed people that Nike hired lawyers at Cooley LLP to conduct an investigation starting in 2019 and decided to stop featuring Neymar in marketing during the probe.
In its statement, the company said it was prepared to investigate in 2018 when the woman first came forward, but “respected the employee’s initial desire to keep this matter confidential and avoid an investigation.”
The firm therefore didn’t share information with law enforcement or any other third party until 2019, when she expressed an interest in pursuing the matter.
“We continue to respect the confidentiality of the employee and also recognize that this has been a long and difficult experience for her,” Nike said.
Neymar’s spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal that the two parties had been in talks since 2019.
“It is very strange a case that was supposed to have happened in 2016, with allegations by a Nike employee, come to light only at that moment,” she told the newspaper.
Neymar’s father accused Nike of “blackmail.”
“We were surprised by something that happened in 2016,” the senior Neymar told Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. “It’s all very strange now. Neymar doesn’t even know this girl of course this came from Nike after we left.”
Nike did not give a reason when it terminated its contract with Neymar at the end of August 2020. The company had sponsored Neymar, 29, since he was a 13-year-old prodigy.
The superstar announced in September 2020 that he had signed an endorsement deal with Puma to become the German sportswear giant’s new poster boy.
Earlier this month, Neymar signed a contract extension with French champions Paris Saint-Germain that will keep him with the club until the end of the 2024-2025 season.
The Brazilian said he had “grown as a person, as a human being” since joining the club in 2017 from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($270 million) in what remains the most expensive transfer in history.
Neymar has claimed three Ligue 1 titles and two French Cups with PSG, although he has also provoked hostility from fans by saying he wanted to return to Barcelona.
His image as an eternal spoiled child was revived late last year by rumors, which he did not deny, of a giant year-end party he organized in his homeland in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
A young woman also filed a complaint against him for rape in 2019 — a case he vehemently denied and that was eventually dropped.


Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?

Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?
Updated 40 min 29 sec ago

Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?

Olympic fallout: Are young Saudi footballers being hampered by SPL’s 7-foreigner rule?
  • Clubs in Kingdom continue to count on overseas players for goals, with negative consequences on Saudi U-23 team at Tokyo 2020

RIYADH: Now the Olympics football tournament is over, attention has quickly turned to the start of the new Saudi Professional League (SPL) season next week.

Take a quick look at the headlines and social media and there is not much being said about what happened in Japan as the young Falcons lost all three games at Tokyo 2020. But there are the usual significant number of reports and rumors as to which foreign stars are heading to the league. The two are connected, however.

There is no doubt that there are some top-class foreign players in Saudi Arabia who bring a lot to their clubs and the league. Stars such as French striker Bafetimbi Gomis and Syrian sharpshooter Omar Al-Somah light up the league on and off the pitch.

Looking ahead to the new season there will be speculation about whether Al-Hilal will make it three in a row or if Al-Ahli will return to the running, but there is one certainty: The top scorer next season will not be Saudi Arabian.

Saudi Arabia’s league is unusual in Asia in that it does not limit the number of foreign players to four in the way many do, with each club allowed to sign and field seven overseas footballers.

And it is no surprise that attackers from around the world are in demand. After all, scoring goals is the hardest thing in football to do, so why would clubs and coaches not look to import solutions?

Gomis, a powerful, skillful striker, fiery yet with ice-cool composure in the area, is one of the best center-forwards in Asia. He was the top scorer in the 2019 AFC Champions League as Al-Hilal picked up a third continental championship. Others played their part but the former French international made the difference at crucial times. The likes of Abderrazzak Hamdallah of Morocco and Cristian Guanca of Argentina were other stars last season.

It is not just the title-chasing clubs that have goal scorers from abroad. Swede Carlos Strandberg scored 16 goals, more than a third of Abha’s total in the SPL, and those strikes played a major part in the club staying up by a point.

In short, in Saudi Arabia, all the teams look to foreigners for goals. This can help the local defenders gain some vital experience in facing a variety of strikers from all over the world. For young center-backs there can be few better learning curves available than one which features clashes against the physical Gomis, the artful Guanca, and the single-minded Strandberg.

This attacking talent can flourish anywhere in the world and if any defender can learn to hold their own against them then they have nothing to fear and plenty to look forward to.

But what about the local strikers? There are consequences for this love of international attackers. Increasingly the home-grown forwards are getting fewer chances to develop. Just look at the goalscoring charts for last season; none of the top 10 were from Saudi Arabia. The highest-ranked was Hassan Al-Amri at No. 12 and seven of his 12 goals for Al-Qadisiyah came from the spot. In contrast, six of the most prolific 10 players in Japan were locals.

This is obviously a worry. If teams look overseas for striking talent, then there are fewer opportunities for locals.

At the Olympics, many hopes were placed on the shoulders of Abdullah Al-Hamdan who made headlines when signing for Al-Hilal from Al-Shabab in January. It was hoped that the 21-year-old was the answer to the search for the next Sami Al-Jaber. Yet the forward struggled to get into games in Japan, looked off the pace, and was easy for defenders to handle. That should not be a surprise given that he has been a bit-part player for Al-Hilal, playing a full league game just once since joining the club.

If he cannot get a run of games then he is unlikely to be able to make the difference against defenders from the Ivory Coast, Germany, and Brazil.

And if it was not tough enough for the player last season, Al-Hilal have added Moussa Marega from Porto. The 30-year-old Malian marksman scored plenty in Portugal and is likely to slot straight into the starting line-up when the new season kicks off.

So, what is a promising young striker such as Al-Hamdan to do? If he does not get much playing time, then he has to move but the same issues exist in other clubs in Saudi Arabia. Moving overseas may be the answer but is not an easy one, especially when Saudi strikers have little reputation internationally, partly due to the fact that they are squeezed out of their starting elevens at home.

Nobody could blame a coach for pushing a talented young player in Riyadh or Jeddah toward midfield or the wings. It is a vicious circle. While foreigners dominate the scoring charts, the demand for them will continue to rise. This reduces the chances for the locals; if they are not playing, they are not scoring, and so clubs continue to look overseas.

There is no easy answer or quick fix but reducing the number of imports from seven to four would be a step in the right direction.


Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020

Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020
Updated 03 August 2021

Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020

Wrestling success for Egypt on mixed morning for Arab athletes at Tokyo 2020
  •  Mohamed Metwally and Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed reach semifinals of 87 kg and 67 kg categories

TOKYO: Egyptian athletes enjoyed a productive Tuesday morning on the wrestling mat at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with two fighters reaching the semifinals.

Mohammed Metwally beat Cuba’s Daniel Hechavarria 4-0 in the quarterfinals of the Greco-Roman 87-kilogram competition after a crushing 9-1 win against Kiryl Maskevich of Belarus in the previous round.

Metwally’s compatriot Mohammed Ibrahim Elsayed had a tougher time in his 67-kilogram matches, edging South Korea’s Hansu Ryu in his first bout, and getting another slim victory over Karen Aslanyan of Armenia in their quarterfinal bout.

Both will take to the mat later in their bid to reach the finals of their respective competitions.

In other bouts, Tunisia’s Lamjed Maafi lost 11-1 to Azerbaijan’s Rafig Huseynov in the 77-kg repechage while Ryu defeated Algeria’s Abdelmalek Merabet 8-0 in a 67-kg qualification match before losing to Metwally.

Aker Al-Obaidi of the refugee team beat Tunisia’s Souleymen Nasr 8-0 in the 67-kg category but was then defeated 10-0 by Georgia’s Ramaz Zoidze in the quarterfinals.

Algerian wrestler Bachir Sid Azara wiped out China’s Fei Peng 11-1 to reach the 87-kg quarterfinals, but then lost narrowly to Ukraine’s Zhan Beleniuk.

In the women’s freestyle quarterfinals, Sweden’s Henna Johansson overcame Tunisia’s Marwa Amri 5-1.

On the track, Lebanon’s Noureddine Hadid finished last in the 200-meter heats with a time of 21.12 seconds and did not advance.


Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus
Updated 02 August 2021

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus

Euro hero Chiellini signs two-year deal with Juventus
  • Chiellini, 36, was out of contract after his previous deal with Juve expired at the end of June
  • He put pen to paper on a contract which runs until 2023

ROME: Giorgio Chiellini has signed a new two-year contract with Juventus, the Serie A club announced on Monday, a few weeks after the Italy captain led his country to triumph at Euro 2020.
Chiellini, 36, was out of contract after his previous deal with Juve expired at the end of June, while Italy were still on their charge to European Championship victory.
He put pen to paper on a contract which runs until 2023, contrary to initial reports in Italy which said he was prepared to agree to a deal until the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, which takes place in November and December next year.
“Giorgio Chiellini embodies everything that Juventus stands for, and it is through his commitment and excellent displays over the course of last 16 years that has earned him a contract renewal,” Juve said.
“There is an overlap in Giorgio’s DNA and that of Juve’s. He forms a big part of Juve’s history, yet also the present and the future,” they added.
The announcement of his new contract was expected, with chairman Andrea Agnelli saying last week that the club were waiting for the center-back to return from his post-Euro holidays before agreeing a new deal.
Chiellini began his long Juventus career in 2005 and was a pillar of the team which won nine successive Serie A titles before Inter Milan broke their rivals’ run of domestic dominance last season.
He has also contested two Champions League finals and won five Italian Cups with Juventus.
Chiellini and his Juve teammate Leonardo Bonucci were central to Italy’s success at this summer’s Euro, providing the solid basis from which Roberto Mancini’s vibrant team flourished.
The Azzurri won the tournament in impressive style, cruising through their group and seeing off the likes of Belgium and Spain in the knockout stages before beating England on penalties in the final at Wembley.
He has played 112 times for his country, finishing runner-up at Euro 2012.


Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday
Updated 02 August 2021

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday

Belarusian athlete to fly to Warsaw from Tokyo on Wednesday
  • Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will fly from Tokyo on a direct flight to Warsaw

WARSAW: Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, the chairman of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation said on Monday.
Tsimanouskaya who took refuge in the Polish embassy in Tokyo a day after refusing her team’s orders to board a flight home from the Olympic Games.
“She will fly from Tokyo, a direct flight to Warsaw on August 4, in two days’ time,” Aleksandr Opeykin told Reuters.
“She has accepted the offer issued by the Polish Foreign Ministry to request international help, she has done that and she has received a Polish visa today. We, at the Foundation, helped her to get the ticket to Warsaw,” he added.


‘Best thing ever’: Gianmarco Tamberi basks in shared glory with friend Mutaz Barshim

Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

‘Best thing ever’: Gianmarco Tamberi basks in shared glory with friend Mutaz Barshim

Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend from Qatar Mutaz Essa Barshim. (AFP)
  • The high jump rivals and friends decided to share Olympic gold rather than have a deciding jump-off

TOKYO: Gianmarco Tamberi has expressed his joy at sharing an Olympic high jump gold medal with his friend Mutaz Essa Barshim, calling it the “best thing ever.”

The Qatari and Italian athletes captured the hearts of sports fans around the world when, in an unprecedented show of sporting solidarity, they decided to share the gold medal in the men’s high jump rather than participate in a deciding “jump-off” against each other.

“Mutaz is my big friend so we enjoyed the evening yesterday and we decided to share the gold medal,” Tamberi told Arab News Japan as he prepared to leave the Olympic Village in Tokyo.

“It’s the best thing ever and that’s the Olympic spirit,” he added. “It was amazing.”

Tamberi had perviously revealed that it was Barshim who, more than anyone else, helped him get over the severe disappointment of missing out on the high jump competition at Rio 2016 due to a injury.

On Sunday, the friends and rivals both cleared 2.37 meters, but then failed with three attempts each at 2.39 meters.

As a Tokyo 2020 official explained to Tamberi and Barshim that a jump-off could be introduced to separate them, the Qatari athlete uttered the words that have now gone down in Olympic history: “Can we have two golds?”

As the official confirmed they could, the duo hugged and broke into tearful celebrations, finally banishing years of injuries and close calls.

Having won bronze in London in 2012 and silver in Rio five years ago, the 30-year-old Barshim now has his gold. Barshim missed a large part of the 2018 season with an ankle injury, but returned to win gold at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha.

“This is a dream I don't want to wake up from,” Barshim said on Sunday. “I have been through a lot. It's been five years that I have been waiting, with injuries and a lot of set-backs.”

“But we are here today sharing this moment and all the sacrifices. It's really worth it now in this moment,” he added.