(Reuters) – West Ham United’s Michail Antonio questioned the logic of people asking for team mate Kurt Zouma to be “sacked” after a video emerged of Zouma abusing his cats, with the striker asking if what the Frenchman did was worse than those guilty of racism.
Animal charity the RSPCA have taken Zouma’s cats into their care while West Ham’s sponsor Vitality has suspended its partnership with the club over its handling of the matter. Adidas have dropped their sponsorship of Zouma.
Jamaican striker Antonio said he did not condone Zouma’s actions, but he asked why those guilty of racism have got a second chance to continue their careers after serving a ban while Zouma should lose his job.
“I’ve got a question for you. Do you think what he’s done is worse than racism? I’m not condoning a thing that he’s done, I don’t agree with what he has done at all,” Antonio told a Sky Sports reporter.
“But there’s people that have been convicted, been caught for racism and have played football afterwards. They got an eight-game punishment or something like that, but people are now calling for people to be sacked and to lose their livelihood.
“I’ve just got to ask this question to everyone out there: Is what he has done worse than what the people convicted of racism (have) done?”
Former Liverpool striker Luis Suarez was banned for eight matches and fined 40,000 pounds ($54,000) for racially abusing former Manchester United defender Patrice Evra in 2011.
West Ham said Zouma was fined the “maximum amount possible”, with British media reporting the fine was two weeks’ wages. The 27-year-old, who apologised, has accepted the fine which will be donated to animal welfare charities.
Calls for Zouma to be sacked grew after West Ham manager David Moyes selected him for Tuesday’s 1-0 win over Watford, and another club sponsor, Experience Kissimmee, said it has ended its sponsorship after learning that the player had started the game.
An online petition to have him prosecuted has been signed by over 286,000 people.
Zouma’s brother Yoan, who filmed the video, has been dropped by his fifth-tier club Dagenham & Redbridge.
“The club has… decided that until the RSPCA has completed its investigations, Yoan will not play for Dagenham & Redbridge in any competitive match,” it said on Thursday.
($1 = 0.7371 pounds)
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Toby Davis)