Shaquille O’Neal wants to set the record straight.
For those living under a rock, there’s a show on Netflix right now called “Tiger King,” and it’s kind of a big deal. Centered around former exotic animal zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage (otherwise known as “Joe Exotic”), who currently is in prison, the show is absolutely ridiculous. It also is rather disturbing, especially for animal rights activists.
Well, O’Neal, a noted big cat enthusiast who visited Joe Exotic’s Oklahoma zoo in 2014, made a surprise cameo on the show. Consequently, the NBA legend has faced significant criticism for seemingly supporting a controversial figure and equally controversial practice.
But, during the latest episode of his podcast, O’Neal clarified his relationship with Joe Exotic.
“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that,” O’Neal said. “We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times.
“Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”
Added O’Neal: “I don’t harm tigers. I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”
Make of that what you will.
We’ll leave you with this clip of O’Neal visiting the “Tiger King” in 2014:
Thumbnail photo via Bob Donnan/USA TODAY Sports Images