Since the release of Netflix’s docu-series Tiger King which is based on the controversial life of exotic animal zoo-keeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, animal rights activists have expressed outrage over the mistreatment of animals by a man who claims to be the most prolific tiger breeder.
During the series, Shaquille O’Neal is shown visiting the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, a park owned by Maldonado-Passage who is more commonly known as “Joe Exotic.” The footage shows O’Neal interacting with tiger cubs alongside Joe but the footage is from a YouTube video published in 2014, and O’Neal wants to be clear that just because he visited the park and enjoyed his time there, doesn’t mean he supports anything Joe’s done.
O’Neal later clarified his appearance on the docu-series on Wednesday’s episode of The Big Podcast With Shaq.
“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.”
O’Neal also mentioned he was unaware of Joe’s criminal behavior and expressed his fascination with tigers.
“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.”