Michail Antonio has questioned whether his West Ham teammate Kurt Zouma’s mistreatment of his cat is “worse than racism”.
The France defender has been widely condemned after a video emerged of him dropping, kicking and slapping the pet. He has since apologised and been fined two weeks’ wages – understood to be in the region of £250,000 – as well as losing his sponsorship deal with Adidas.
Zouma remains under investigation by the RSPCA after his two cats were taken into the care of the charity, with two of West Ham’s sponsors having withdrawn their support for the club.
When asked about the incident during an interview with Sky Sports News, Antonio said while he did not condone Zouma’s actions, he felt there was a wider debate to be considered.
“I’ve got a question for you. Do you think what he’s done is worse than racism?” Antonio said. “I’m not condoning a thing that he’s done, I don’t agree with what he has done at all. But there’s people that have been convicted and been caught for racism, and have played football afterwards. They got an eight-game punishment or something like that, but people are now calling for people to be sacked, for them to lose their livelihood.”
Dagenham & Redbridge have said Zouma’s brother Yoan, who filmed the video, will not play for the club in any competitive match until the RSPCA has completed its investigation. Yoan Zouma has said he deeply regrets his involvement. “Any further action deemed necessary to be taken will be made at the conclusion of the RSPCA investigation,” the National League club said.
Experience Kissimmee, the tourism authority for Osceola County, Florida, had been evaluating its relationship with West Ham since Zouma was selected to start Tuesday’s game against Watford after the footage went viral.
“Experience Kissimmee announced today that it has ended its sponsorship of West Ham United Football Club,” the club’s destination partner said in a tweet.
Vitality, West Ham’s wellness partner,had previously suspended its sponsorship, saying it was “hugely disappointed” with the judgment shown by the club in response to the video. It said it would be “engaging with the club to understand what actions they will be taking”.