West Ham sponsor Vitality suspends deal over Kurt Zouma cat video

The insurance company said they were ‘hugely disappointed by the judgement shown by the club’ following the emergence of the video

Jamie Braidwood
Wednesday 09 February 2022 15:29 GMT
Kurt Zouma has been fined by West Ham
Kurt Zouma has been fined by West Ham (PA Wire)

The insurance and investment company Vitality have said they are suspending their sponsorship of West Ham over the club’s response to a video of footballer Kurt Zouma kicking and slapping his pet cats.

West Ham condemned Zouma after a disturbing video emerged of the player abusing the animals, only for manager David Moyes to select the defender in his starting team hours later for the Premier League match against Watford on Tuesday. Moyes defended his decision by stating that it was his job to select the “best team” available.

The club announced on Wednesday that they had fined Zouma the “maximum amount possible” - believed to be two weeks’ wages - while confirming that the RSCPA had taken the animals into their care.

But a statement from Vitality said: “We were very distressed by the video we have seen of Kurt Zouma. At Vitality, we condemn animal cruelty and violence of any kind.

“We are hugely disappointed by the judgement subsequently shown by the club in response to this incident and as such, we are suspending our sponsorship of West Ham with immediate effect.

“We will now be further engaging with the club to understand what actions they will be taking to address the situation.”

Vitality were announced as West Ham’s official wellness partner at the start of the season and held sponsorship deals for both the men’s and women’s teams.

Umbro, who are the Premier League club’s kit supplier, announced they would not be taking action.

“Umbro partners with West Ham on a club level and does not represent individual players,” the company said. “Like West Ham United we condemn the actions of the player concerned and do not condone cruelty towards animals in any form.”

Zouma is sponsored by Adidas, who said on Tuesday that they have launched an internal investigation. “We are aware of a deeply upsetting video circulating online,” Adidas said. “No animal should be subject to cruel and unwarranted abuse, and we are investigating the incident internally.”

More than 150,000 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.

A club statement read: “West Ham United can confirm that the club is supporting an RSPCA investigation into the actions of Kurt Zouma in the video circulated online this week.

“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.”

The RSPCA confirmed: “The two cats are now in RSPCA care. Our priority is and has always been the wellbeing of these cats. They’ve been taken for a check-up at a vets and then will remain in our care while the investigation continues.”

Essex Police have also said they will co-operate with the RSPCA investigation.

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