Shaquille O'Neal Clarifies Joe Exotic Relationship After Backlash for 'Tiger King' Cameo

The former Los Angeles Lakers star claims he doesn't know the incarcerated zoo operator after he came under fire following his brief appearance on the Netflix documentary series.

AceShowbiz - Shaquille O'Neal has set things straight about his alleged involvement with Joe Exotic after he earned backlash for his cameo appearance on Netflix's docuseries "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness". On his podcast, the basketball legend claimed that he's not friends with the incarcerated zoo operator, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, and he barely knows him.

"So we go in there, and it's a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe," the 48-year-old retired athlete recalled his visit to the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park, the zoo Joe previously owned in Oklahoma, in a recent episode of "The Big Podcast with Shaq".

He continued, "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." Shaq added that he stopped coming to the zoo after finding out what Joe was involved with behind the scenes.

While he admitted to making donations to the park, Shaq insisted that he also gave money to many other zoos he visited. Claiming that he's a tiger lover, the former Los Angeles Lakers player said, "I don't harm tigers. 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."

He also addressed the criticisms leveled at him, stating, "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."

When asked by his co-host if he's worried his appearance on the Netflix show would put him in a bad light, Shaq stressed, "People that know me know that I'm righteous."

Joe, a self-proclaimed tiger lover, was sentenced to 22 years in jail in January of this year after he was found guilty for paying a hitman $3,000 to kill Carole Baskin, an animal activist who runs a sanctuary called the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Fla. Joe was feuding with Carole, who publicly criticized him for killing five of his tigers, breeding them and selling lemurs and more in hopes of turning a profit. According to prosecutors, Joe tried to silence Carole by hiring a hitman.

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