Vitality have suspended their sponsorship of West Ham, amid a growing backlash from club backers including Umbro following video clips emerging of Kurt Zouma kicking and slapping his cat
The footage has prompted Vitality to review their relationship with the Hammers.
A statement from the insurance and investment company, revealed by the BBC’s Simon Stone, read: “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.
“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.”
Another of the Hammers’ partners Kissimmee are also ‘evaluating’ their relationship with the club.
A statement posted on social media Tuesday night read: “It was disheartening to learn that the player Kurt Zouma was part of the starting line in West Ham United’s game tonight.
“As we wait for further information from WHU, we will be evaluating our relationship and sponsorship with the club.”
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Umbro UK said: “Umbro partners with West Ham United on a club level and does not represent individual players.
“Like West Ham United we condemn the actions of the player concerned and do not condone cruelty towards animals in any form.”
Booting the cat like a football
The West Ham defender was filmed attacking his pet at his £2million mansion while his brother films him.
Zouma, 27, drops the moggy and boots it in mid-air across the kitchen floor.
The French international then chases the animal around his dining room in front of a child as the cameraman laughs.
Zouma also hurls a pair of designer shoes at the pet — which frantically tries to escape.
In a final clip, he is seen forcefully slapping the cat in the face — and out of the child’s arms.
While the Met Police says it won’t launch a probe, thousands of people have contacted the RSPCA.
The charity has its own powers, meaning it could choose to bring its own prosecution.
Last night, Zouma issued a grovelling apology for the attack and insisted it was an isolated incident.
He said: “I want to apologise for my actions. There are no excuses for my behaviour, which I sincerely regret.
“I also want to say how deeply sorry I am to anyone who was upset by the video. 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.”
It is understood the £30million former Chelsea player was furious that the Bengal — an expensive breed of a domesticated cat that looks like a small leopard — messed up his house.
Zouma fined by West Ham
West Ham, who have received a lot of condemnation for their management of the situation after coach David Moyes named Zouma in his starting XI on Tuesday night, said that they are “supporting the RSPCA investigation” and that Zouma “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”.
“West Ham United can confirm that Kurt Zouma has been fined the maximum amount possible following his actions in the video that circulated,” read a Premier League statement. “The player has immediately accepted the fine, which will be donated to animal welfare charities.
“West Ham United would like to reiterate our condemnation of Kurt’s actions and make it clear that the matter continues to be handled with the utmost seriousness.
“However, we believe it is now important to allow the RSPCA to conduct their investigation in a fair and thorough manner, and will be making no further comment at this stage.”
Moyes, in particular, received criticism for his decision to play the 27-year-old, but the Scot tried to distance himself from the issue.
“I am really disappointed and the club have taken all the actions that they can do at the moment,” Moyes said after the win over Watford, in which Zouma played 90 minutes.
“They are working on that behind the scenes. My job is to pick the best team for West Ham and Kurt was part of that team.
“I am a big animal lover. As I said, my job is to try and win for West Ham and to put out the best team for that.
“I think the club would rather deal with it all in time and they will let you know what the action is.
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