NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal addressed the controversy surrounding his alleged relationship with Tiger King star Joe Exotic and his big cat zoo in Oklahoma.
Shaquille’s comments come after his cameo appearance on Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness led to speculation regarding his relationship with Joe Exotic and his private zoo.
Tiger King follows the story of Joe Exotic, who owned G.W. Zoo (Garold Wayne Exotic Animal Memorial Park), a private zoo in Oklahoma. It tells the story of his clash with animal activist Carole Baskin, who founded Big Cat Rescue.
Shaquille O’Neal made a cameo on Tiger King
Shaquille O’Neal made a brief cameo in the Netflix docuseries when he visited the zoo in May 2014
During the visit, he was taken around to see the animals and he met Joe Exotic. The zoo later posted about Shaquille’s visit to the zoo on their Instagram page.
Shaq visited Joe Exotic’s zoo on multiple occasions and appeared on a reality show that Joe was shooting in 2014, according to TMZ.
In 2016, Joe Exotic claimed that Shaq visited his zoo several times and that he “sponsored” some of the tigers.
Shaq’s cameo on Tiger King sparked online speculation
Allegations about Shaquille’s relationship with Joe Exotic and his zoo led to speculation on social media. Some criticized him for allegedly supporting Joe Exotic. He had been accused of abusing animals and trying to hire a hitman to kill his rival, animal activist Carole Baskin who founded Big Cat Rescue.
— Alessandra Alma (moved her deadline bc of COVID19) (@AalmaAuthor) March 27, 2020
So we really not gonna talk about Tiger King Joe Exotic being bffs with Shaquille O’Neal??
— ? Frogg Neal ? (@froggneal) March 28, 2020
“#TigerKing has everything: polygamy, meth, tigers, murder, Shaquille O’Neal, a sex cult, amputations, magic, elephant riding, country music, Scarface, presidential candidates, a hitman, John Oliver, explosions, a fat guy with a bowl cut riding a jetski, and a septic tank.” pic.twitter.com/wnq8Gfq4nU
— Noah Kelly (@noahkelly14) March 29, 2020
Carole says that ppl posing for pics with a big car or a big cat's cub are the problem bc that causes more breeding of animals who will never be free.
Did Shaquille O'neal just say he has 2 tigers?#TigerKing
— L.V.A (@L_V_A_S) March 28, 2020
Shaquille says he was never friends with Joe Exotic
Following the controversy over his alleged relationship with Joe Exotic, Shaquille addressed the issue on The Big Podcast with Shaq.
He explained that when he went to Joe Exotic’s zoo in 2014 he was just a visitor and he was not aware of the condition of the animals there. He also said that he and Joe Exotic were never friends and that he never had any business dealings with him.
“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.”
While Shaquille admitted that he made donations to the zoo, he defended himself, saying that he donates to many groups and organizations, according to TMZ.
Shaquille, who is known to have to kept tigers in the past, said he stopped visiting Joe Exotic’s zoo after he learned about the condition of the animals.
“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.”
He also said he watched Tiger King and he liked it.
Joe Exotic is currently serving 22 years in prison after being convicted of attempted murder-for-hire.
In addition to reportedly trying to hire a hitman to kill rival Carole Baskin, he was also found guilty of wildlife law violations, including the Endangered Species Act. He was also found guilty of a law prohibiting illegal wildlife trading.