Michail Antonio on Kurt Zouma cat video: ‘Is it worse than racism?’

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As the widespread outcry has escalated around the video showing West Ham defender Kurt Zouma abusing his pet cat, one of his teammates posed a question for public consideration.

Football fans and observers are demanding that the club dole out harsher punishment to Zouma — West Ham fined him the maximum of two weeks’ wages, amounting to $340,000 — for actions that are now under investigation by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in conjunction with local police.

Zouma was given the start in the first West Ham game after the video was posted on social media despite the outrage over the footage, which showed the Frenchman kicking, striking and throwing an object at his cat.

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Sponsors have since suspended their partnerships with both player and club, and debate rages on as to what the club should do. An online petition demanding Zouma be prosecuted by authorities has nearly reached the targeted 300,000 signatures as of Feb. 10. 

What Michail Antonio said about the Zouma cat video incident

Antonio was asked by a reporter whether harsher punishment should come Zouma’s way. Here’s what the Jamaican international forward had to say. He posed a different question in response:

West Ham’s Michail Antonio has questioned the reaction to Kurt Zouma kicking his cat, asking if it’s worse than players convicted of racism. pic.twitter.com/QchAIeXOsT

— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) February 10, 2022

“So do you think what he’s done is worse than racism?” Antonio asked. “I am not condoning a thing that he’s done. I don’t agree with what he’s done at all.

“But there’s people that’s convicted — been caught — for racism and has played football afterwards. They got punished, they got an eight-game punishment or something like that. But people are now calling for people to be sacked from their livelihood.

“I’ve just got to ask this question to everyone out there: Is what he’s done worse than what the people have done that got convicted of racism?”

Punishment for recent racist incidents in football

Antonio was making reference to incidents of racism involving players caught uttering slurs toward an opponent. None were convicted of crimes by civil authorities, but the sport’s governing bodies have taken action. There have been a handful of those incidents and the resulting sanctions have been criticized for being light and not helping to eradicate racism from the sport.

One of the more high-profile cases occurred in 2021. Slavia Prague defender Ondrej Kudela was given a 10-match ban by European governing body UEFA for racially abusing Rangers player Glen Kamara, whose lawyer commented that the “ban smacks of tokenism.” It was long enough to keep Kudela from participating in Euro 2021.

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Matches have been stopped for racism from supporters. A match in Germany’s third division was abandoned in December after a player suffered racist abuse from fans.

Racism in football is even more widespread outside of matches, with fans accused on multiple occasions of directing racist abuse at players on social media. The platforms have come under fire for not doing enough to crack down on the behavior. Authorities have stepped in to investigate on many occasions, and clubs have regularly issued stadium bans.

With racist incidents continuing to occur on and off the field, players have continued to do their part to raise awareness, including taking a knee before matches. 

What will happen to Zouma?

Thus far, Zouma has been fined the maximum amount and West Ham issued a harsh statement condemning his actions.

The RSPCA investigation could yet result in prosecution and one of the consequences could be Zouma being prevented from owning pets in the future. The RSPCA has the ability under common law to prosecute individuals who are suspected of animal abuse or neglect. 

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West Ham left the door open for additional sanctions, noting in its statement the fine was “pending further sanction once the outcome of that process is determined.”

Zouma’s brother, Yoan, who shot the video, was suspended by his fifth-division club, Dagenham & Redbridge. The club will not play him “until the RSPCA has completed its investigations.”

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