New reporting by the celebrity news website TMZ (and their TMZ Sports page) may show the man known as “Tiger King” still believes he has a friendship with Shaquille O’Neal, showing off a screenshot of an alleged recent video chat with Shaq.
For his part, O’Neal has distanced himself from the man Oklahoma wild animal park that has been widely criticized for the way it treats animals in its car. It’s not clear what the connection is between the former owner of the park – who went by the name Joe Exotic, and this new story involving a man named Jeff Lowe, who also appears connected to the park. The park is the centerpiece of the Netflix “Tiger King” docu-series, and it’s been making big waves on TV and social media lately.
Now PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has reached out to Shaq with a letter (and released to the public), saying claims by Lowe that he’s still friendly with the former NBA superstar are “problematic.”
Here’s a larger quote from the letter to Shaq: 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 is no different from Joe Exotic when it comes to harming animals.” As recently as just a few weeks ago, the facility – known as the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park – posted a screengrab which appears to show a FaceTime call between Shaq and Lowe. On the post, someone from the park wrote about O’Neal: “One of the nicest guys in the World. Shaq facetime’d a few minutes ago to see how we were doing and if we need anything. We love you too buddy.”
TMZ Sports noted that Shaq has already spoken out about his relationship to the park and its managers on his own podcast. Shaq said he “stopped going” to the zoo when he found out what was really happening behind the scenes.
Now, PETA is begging Shaq to “disavow” Jeff Lowe the same way he disavowed Joe Exotic … firing off a letter to Shaq explaining their position.
“It appears that the equally problematic wild animal exhibitor Jeff Lowe is now claiming to have your support. Lowe is no different from Joe Exotic when it comes to harming animals.”
PETA points out Lowe “has a long history of violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act” — and there’s still an active warrant for Lowe in Nevada stemming from Lowe’s failed tiger-petting business (which was also mentioned in the Netflix doc).
“It’s clear that you love tigers, and we hope you will dissociate yourself from people who profit from abusing, breeding, and exploiting them,” PETA said to Shaq in the letter, obtained by TMZ Sports.
If you would like the read the full copy of the PETA letter yourself, click here.
PETA asks Shaq, “…please help these tigers. Help us shut down these hellholes, move the animals to reputable sanctuaries, and keep them out of the hands of abusers.”
TMZ Sports says it recently reached out to Shaq for more information, but has not yet heard anything back. When we know more, we’ll let you know.