Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

RACE, OUTRAGE AND THE COMPLEXITIES OF CAT-KICKING

Posted on 13 April 2022 by Mary Akinsola

When footage of West Ham defender Kurt Zouma emerged showing him kicking his cat, the British society went into a frenzy as it rightly should. Nothing justifies such behaviour. Nothing at all.

Although as a Black woman who grew up in an African society where cats are majorly frowned upon, I struggled to understand the outrage that followed considering terrible acts I have witnessed or been subjected to in the time I have spent here.

Zouma cannot unring this bell. West Ham fined him 250,000£. The RSPCA took both cats away from him. Of course, these are appropriate sanctions for the act. He also apologized repeatedly.

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Soon, an online petition began making rounds on social media asking people to sign a petition to send Zouma to jail for kicking a cat. Another was raised to sack him from West Ham and the French National team. Adidas also terminated Zouma’s sponsorship contract.

At this point I began to wonder if I missed something. Zouma kicked a cat which was despicable, and he was sanctioned, so why the chants of jail? Sack? Are these sanctions not becoming too much for the improper act committed?

Reacting to the incident, former goalkeeper, Chris Kirkland said “Everywhere they go now and everywhere he [Zouma] goes, he’s going to be targeted and rightfully so as well because he deserves everything he’s going to get. If it was a racism case, the FA have acted, stepped in and banned players for six to 10 games — this is worse if anything, what is the difference?”

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Let me reiterate that as an African who in the last seven months has seen and experienced racism from obvious to subtle, I found his comments racist, sickening and disgusting.

Some might say well, the topic here is not racism and that may be right to an extent. To the point where Kirkland’s comments made it a part of the conversation.

France striker Karim Benzema blackmailed a teammate over a sex tape but kept his Adidas sponsorship. Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez bit three different people leaving a visible scar on one but was never sent to jail or sacked. Adidas did not even withdraw its sponsorship.

Jamie O’Hara who hypocritically has conveniently found his voice to speak about Zouma, was fined £500 for punching a school child back in 2014

Scenarios abound of instances where football players have committed actual crimes against humans and never either lost sponsorship or even got jail time, why then is the Zouma case different?

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Zouma has now paid the highest fine ever for a football player. He kicked a cat. He paid worse than the man who racially abused Patrice Evra and the man who was convicted of manslaughter while drunk driving.

Black people are expected to take things on the chin when at the receiving end of a transgression but cannot be forgiven when they transgress.

One of the most irritating sights I have had to endure in a while is seeing people come out to applaud Lewis Hamilton for being gentleman enough to climb the podium after Abu Dhabi but silent when Max Verstappen wasn’t gracious enough to do the same in Saudi Arabia. Are those foolish standards only set for Black people?

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Brands do not want to be caught in the crossfire; they do not believe a black man has enough commercial value. Adidas will gladly support Suarez after he bites humans three times but will cancel Zouma after he kicks a cat.

West Ham’s Michail Antonio’s response after being asked for comments was also interesting. “I’ve got a question for you. Do you think what he’s done is worse than racism?”

Although it is quite surprising to see that more black players have not come out to point out this uncomfortable trend, in this age of cancel culture, therein lies a reason for abstaining from topics like this one. This piece is an invitation to cancel from some white corners but honestly, I could not care even if I attempted to. It is the truth of black people who deep down are not cowering to the mob or giving power to cancel culture.

Black athletes need an increase in commercial value if this fight against racism and cancel culture will be successful because taking a knee is not going to cut it. I really have never rated that ritual anyway.

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It is honestly mind boggling to me that entities who kill chickens for burgers, employ child labor to make its luxurious products, kill animals to make leather for boots are sacrificing a black man for kicking a cat.

Kicking cats will never be okay but how does it carry more repercussions than manslaughter, revenge porn, physical human harm, and racism?