U.K. soccer player Kurt Zouma is under fire after a video showed him abusing cats
Kurt Zouma, a French soccer player who plays in England's Premier League, is facing a string of consequences following the release of disturbing video footage that shows him abusing animals.
In the short clip, which has been shared repeatedly on Twitter and other social media outlets, Zouma can be seen first picking up and then kicking a cat, throwing shoes at it, and hitting it in the face, all while laughter can be heard in the background. The clip was first posted by Zouma's brother on Snapchat on Sunday, according to The Sun, which first reported the footage earlier this week.
Following the release of the video, Zouma, who plays for the Premier League club West Ham United, issued an apology and assured the public that there were "no excuses" for what he'd done, according to a statement sent to several media outlets.
"I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video," Zouma said. "I would like to assure everyone that our two cats are perfectly fine and healthy. They are loved and cherished by our entire family, and this behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again."
In a statement of its own, West Ham United confirmed that the club and Zouma are both cooperating with an investigation by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), an animal welfare charity based in the United Kingdom. The club has fined Zouma the maximum penalty — more than $338,000, according to NBC Sports — and the player and West Ham have agreed that the funds will be donated to animal welfare charities. Zouma has also since turned over his family's two cats to the RSPCA to be assessed.
"Kurt is extremely remorseful and, like everyone at the Club, fully understands the depth of feeling surrounding the incident and the need for action to be taken," the club said.
Fans demand action as video spreads
Following the spread of the video online, many people began tagging the RSPCA's Twitter account, prompting a response from the organization, which confirmed that it is investigating the incident and was doing so even before the clip "went viral." In the meantime, the two cats are in the RSPCA's care, the organization said.
"We are a charity but we have to act in a similar way to the police in the way we investigate any matter, following proper legal processes," RSPCA said in a separate statement. "Investigations do not conclude overnight and there is often work going on behind the scenes that we're unable to update people on."
Consequences for Zouma have been swift. In a statement to NPR, Adidas confirmed that it has ended its sponsorship of Zouma following the release of the video and its own investigation.
Vitality, a UK-based insurance and investment company, said in a statement on Twitter that Zouma's video left the company "distressed." The firm has subsequently suspended its sponsorship of the team, citing not only Zouma's behavior but the "judgment" shown by the club.
Vitality's statement may refer to the team's decision to have Zouma be a starting player in its first game following the release of the video. That move led to further criticism of the team, as well as further consequences. Experience Kissimmee, another sponsor of West Ham United, called Zouma's place in the starting line "disheartening" in a statement shared via Twitter and said it will be evaluating its relationship with the team.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.