Turns out associating with an erratic man who runs a roadside zoo filled with tigers wasn't the best idea for Shaquille O'Neal. The former basketball player makes a surprise appearance in Netflix's new documentary series Tiger King, which tells the true story of Joe Exotic, an Oklahoma man who ran an exotic animal park and is currently in prison for a murder-for-hire scheme. Understandably, O'Neal is now distancing himself from the protagonist.
On his podcast The Big Podcast With Shaq, O'Neal addressed his appearance in the first episode of the series, in which he is seen holding two tiger cubs and later claiming to have "got two more." However, O'Neal is now downplaying his involvement, and stresses that he stopped associating with Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, when he learned of his shadier dealings.
“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe," O'Neal began. "We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. 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 claims that, contrary to past statements, he does not own any tigers himself.
“I don’t harm tigers," he said on the podcast. "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.”
Looks like untangling this friendship will require a whole other Netflix doc.