Shaquille O’Neill has clarified his surprise appearance on Netflix series Tiger King and insists controversial leading man Joe Exotic is ‘not his friend’.
Joe Exotic – real name Joe Maldonado-Passage – is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence for attempting to hire a hitman to kill rival Carole Baskin, and for animal abuse.
But back in his days of running Oklahoma’s G.W. Zoo, the eccentric character and his 200+ strong exotic animal collection garnered celebrity and media attention… including Louis Theroux who made a documentary on him, and basketball legend Shaq.
But speaking on The Big Podcast With Shaq after the documentary series exploded across the world, the 48-year-old was keen to distance himself from being Joe’s friend, or even knowing him particularly well.
‘I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him,’ he said. ‘Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.’
Shaq made an unexpected cameo on Tiger King appearing as a patron in one of Joe’s many (many, many) hours of home video footage he shot to promote the park.
The pair were also seen beaming next to each other in a photo next to a white tiger cub.
‘We go in there [the zoo], and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe,’ he explained. ‘We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that… We take pictures with tigers.’
‘We went back a couple times,’ he added. ‘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 later insisted: ‘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.’
Among Joe’s convictions, the animal breeder is accused of killing off animals after they were deemed too big to be used for petting.
Joe is currently fighting the conviction, wants a presidential pardon, and a settlement of $94million.
Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness is available now on Netflix.
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