West Ham will donate two weeks' worth of Kurt Zouma's wages to animal welfare charities; the player started against Watford on Tuesday less than 24 hours after video emerged of him kicking pet cat; one West Ham sponsor has suspended its partnership with club; Adidas drops Zouma
Thursday 10 February 2022 08:33, UK
Kurt Zouma's cats have been taken away by the RSPCA after a disturbing video emerged of him hitting, dropping, and kicking his pet across his kitchen floor on Monday.
The 27-year-old West Ham defender issued an apology but Essex Police confirmed "urgent enquiries" were underway in conjunction with the RSPCA.
The RSPCA released a statement on Wednesday saying the cats "are safe and in our care".
West Ham have also fined the player two weeks wages - understood to be £250,000 - which will be donated to animal welfare charities.
The club initially condemned their player's actions after the video emerged but backed manager David Moyes' decision to start the player for the win against Watford on Tuesday night.
Moyes has said Zouma would remain available for selection while the club's internal investigation ran its course.
"Our priority is and has always been the wellbeing of these cats," an RSPCA spokesperson said.
"They've been taken for a check-up at a vets and then will remain in our care while the investigation continues.
"We're grateful to everyone who expressed their concern for these cats. We were dealing with this issue before the video went viral online and are leading the investigation.
"We continue to investigate so we cannot comment further at this time."
West Ham United confirmed the club is continuing to support an RSPCA investigation.
"Kurt and the club are co-operating fully with the investigation and the player has willingly complied with the steps taken in the initial stage of the process, including delivering his family’s two cats to the RSPCA for assessment. Kurt is extremely remorseful and, like everyone at the club, fully understands the depth of feeling surrounding the incident and the need for action to be taken."
Adidas confirmed Zouma is no longer associated with the company after "investigating the incident internally".
A statement read: "We have concluded our investigation and can confirm Kurt Zouma is no longer an Adidas contracted athlete."
Adidas had earlier said: "No animal should be subject to cruel and unwarranted abuse."
There was widespread outrage and revulsion towards the video, while more than 225,000 people have signed an online petition on Change.org, started by Anti Animal Abuse, calling for Zouma to be prosecuted amid a growing public backlash.
National pet charity Blue Cross described the incident as "truly horrifying" and called for Zouma to face prosecution.
West Ham's wellness partner, Vitality, has suspended its sponsorship of the club with immediate effect.
"We were very distressed by the video we have seen of Kurt Zouma. At Vitality, we condemn animal cruelty and violence of any kind," a statement read.
"We are hugely disappointed by the judgement subsequently shown by the club in response to this incident. As such, we are suspending our sponsorship of West Ham United with immediate effect. We will now be further engaging with the club to understand what actions they will be taking to address the situation."
Experience Kissimmee, one of the club's sponsors, has also ended its sponsorship.
Before announcing the end of its association with West Ham, the company said in a tweet: "It was disheartening to learn that the player Kurt Zouma was part of the starting line in West Ham United's game tonight.
"Experience Kissimmee strongly condemns the actions of player Kurt Zouma...as we as an organisation, community, and destination in no way condone animal cruelty."
An Umbro spokesperson added: "Like West Ham United we condemn the actions of the player concerned and do not condone cruelty towards animals in any form."
In France, animal rights group the 30 Million Friends Foundation condemned the "heinous act" and called for Zouma to be suspended from the national team.
Moyes defended his decision to start Zouma against Watford after the video emerged because "he is one of our better players".
Speaking after West Ham's 1-0 victory over Watford - in which Zouma played the full 90 minutes - Moyes said: "Yes, he will [remain available]. The club will sort the rest of it out. I'll look after the football side."
He added: "I'm really disappointed, and the club have taken all the action they can do at the moment behind the scenes. My job is to pick the best team and Kurt was part of that.
"I'm a big animal lover and it's something that will have affected a lot of people.
"I was completely disappointed with what I saw and what I was told, but my job was to try and find a way to get a win for West Ham. Some people will be disappointed and I understand that.
"I'm someone who cares a lot about my dogs and my horses. The club are dealing with it as you well know.
"I've already spoken to him and we'll move on as much as we can. We understand it's not something everybody is pleased about. It's a really poor situation.
"Was it the wrong call? My feeling was Kurt's apologised. I understand lots of people won't just accept that. But I had to do my job then, and that was to pick the best team I could.
"He's obviously really disappointed and we've all felt it through the team and through the club. We are all of the same feeling it was completely out of order from Kurt and we didn't expect that.
"I always felt I had to try and separate them and let the club do their side and I'll do my side which is the football side. I think you are talking to one of the most disciplinarian managers there is.
"It's something which we are all really disappointed with and the club are dealing with it. Kurt is in our first XI so my decision was to play him."
Zouma issued an apology for the attack and insisted it was an isolated incident.
"I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video," he said. "I would like to assure everyone that our two cats are perfectly fine and healthy.
"They are loved and cherished by our entire family, and this behaviour was an isolated incident that will not happen again."
A West Ham statement said: "West Ham United unreservedly condemns the actions of our player, Kurt Zouma, in the video that has circulated.
"We have spoken to Kurt and will be dealing with the matter internally, but we would like to make it clear that we in no way condone cruelty towards animals."