'Problematic' photo lands Shaquille O'Neal back in hot water

Shaquille O'Neal has been urged to distance himself from another controversial trainer on TV series, 'Tiger King'. Pic: Getty/Instagram

Shaquille O'Neal has come renewed fire over another controversy surrounding his role in the global TV series phenomenon, "Tiger King".

This week, the NBA Hall of Famer was forced to distance himself from imprisoned “Tiger King” character Joe Exotic after he made an unintended cameo in the popular Netflix documentary.

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The show features Exotic engaging in the wild animal trade and keeping captive lions and tigers among other animals that naturally live in the wild.

Exotic is also seen taking newborn cubs away from their mothers immediately after birth.

More trouble for Shaq

Now O’Neal is at the centre of criticism from animal rights group PETA for appearing to associate with another of “Tiger King’s” big cat breeders, Jeff Lowe.

On Wednesday, PETA published a letter it sent to O’Neal urging him to disavow Lowe after the trainer published an image of an apparent video chat he had with O’Neal.

“We saw your statement about not being as involved with Joe Exotic as the Tiger King documentary has made it seem,” the letter reads.

“It appears that the equally problematic wild-animal exhibitor, Jeff Lowe, is now claiming to have your support.

“As long as he continues to use your name to support his abusive business, you will be tied to animal suffering.

“It’s clear that you love tigers, and we hope you will dissociate yourself from people who profit from abusing, breeding, and exploiting them.

“Lowe has a long history of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. He continues to tear baby big cats away from their mothers and forces them to interact with the public.”

O’Neal has not publicly responded to PETA’s letter.

Shaq: ‘I love tigers’

Following outcry when “Tiger King” footage showed O’Neal meeting with Exotic, O’Neal responded on “The Big Podcast with Shaq” that he’s not a friend of Exotic’s and wasn’t aware of any animal abuse that took place behind the scenes.

“We find out that he’s involved with all this stuff, and actually I stopped going,” O’Neal said. “I’m righteous. I don’t harm tigers. ... Do I put donations to zoos to help these tigers out? I do ... Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers.”

“Tiger King” has become a global hit on Netflix and on social media, with people stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly unable to stop watching.

With Yahoo Sports US