‘Is it worse than racism?’ – Kurt Zouma, the cat, and the standards

By Jaysim Hanspal
Posted on Monday, 14 February 2022 16:34, updated on Tuesday, 15 February 2022 09:26

Premier League - West Ham United v Watford
West Ham United's Kurt Zouma before the match REUTERS/Tony Obrien

Football has been awash with controversy over the past weeks. Allegations of abuse and rape have plastered the front pages of international pages, alongside condemnation and fines for those involved. But Kurt Zouma faced a backlash that suggests that - in certain vocal quarters - animal welfare is held to be more important than racial abuse.

In the latest wave of footballers behaving badly came a video of West Ham player Kurt Zouma, showing the French centre-back kicking his cat in front of his child, in a move that received extensive backlash online.

The RSPCA has since taken both of Zouma’s cat’s away and Essex police have been involved, sparking a debate regarding what consequences the player should receive in response to his behaviour.

Higher convictions

Zouma’s West Ham teammate Michail Antonio was questioned about the reaction to the video, with some reporting asking if it’s worse than players convicted of racism.

Antonio said, “Do you think is what he’s done worse than racism? I’m not condoning what he’s done, I don’t agree with what he’s done. But there are people who are convicted in court for racism and have played football afterwards.”

“People are calling for him to be sacked and to lose his livelihood. But I just have to ask this question to everyone out there. Is what he’s done worse than racism?”

Football has had a long and arduous history with racism, from both supporters and players themselves. In 2011, Luis Suárez was charged with racism for consistently using racial slurs during a heated match in October of the same year. He has also bitten players three times, resulting in him being banned from multiple matches.

Black players have consistently been the target of racial abuse, with high-profile players often being the perpetrators, and then facing very few consequences. Former England captain John Terry came under fire for calling Queen Parks Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand a “f***ing black c***”. He maintained his captaincy and was allowed to continue playing.

Zouma and the magic hat

Other’s in the sport had less sympathy for the player. Graeme Souness, the former professional and Sky Sports pundit, said, “I’ve no sympathy for him. The fact that they put it on social media means they think there is nothing wrong with it. For me, I wouldn’t have played him again this year and if I was still a player, I wouldn’t want to play in a team with him.”

Despite the backlash, West Ham has decided not to suspend the player, with David Moyes starting him against Watford and for other games despite an injury. The coach has asked the public for their forgiveness for Zouma’s “terrible actions”. The club has chosen to fine the player two weeks wages – estimated to be £250,000, which he is said to have donated to animal welfare charities.

Zouma has lost sponsorship deals with Adidas, and West Ham have lost sponsors Vitality and Experience Kissimmee.

The player’s brother, who plays for Dagenham & Redbridge, has been suspended by the club for his part in filming the widely shared video.

In a video posted to social media, West Ham supporters can be seen chanting in support of the player. The chant includes the lines, “Kurt Zouma is magic, he wears the magic hat, and if you throw a cat at him, He’ll kick the ****** back.”

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