Shaquille O’Neal is playing some defense while the NBA season remains suspended.
The Hall of Fame center attempted to clarify his brief appearance on the hit Netflix documentary “Tiger King,” saying that while he loves big cats, “he had no idea” what was going on at the Oklahoma ranch owned by Joseph Maldonado-Passage, the now-imprisoned title character known as “Joe Exotic.”
O’Neal appeared on the opening episode of the seven-part series. Video showed him touring the zoo and taking pictures with the animals, and then cut to him referencing the visit the next night while on TNT’s NBA broadcast, saying, “Shoutout to Exotic Joe” and “I got two more tigers.”
Joe Exotic was ultimately sentenced to 22 years in prison in January after being found guilty of multiple charges, including murder-plot-for-hire and illegally selling tiger cubs.
O’Neal, during a recent episode of “The Big Podcast With Shaq,” explained his appearance.
“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe,” O’Neal said. “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.”
O’Neal noted that although he does often donate to help tigers, he never bought any of the animals from Joe Exotic, nor is he friends with him.
“I don’t harm tigers,” he said. “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.”