Major sponsors have severed ties with Kurt Zouma and West Ham as the fallout grows from the center back's cat-kicking incident. Essex Police are liaising with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) over the incident amid mounting pressure on the player and club from sponsors. The RSPCA have taken both animals into protective care while Zouma has been fined two weeks' wages by West Ham, a figure understood to be in the region of $330,000. That is not the end of the impact for Zouma, who has been dropped by Adidas.
"We have concluded our investigation and can confirm Kurt Zouma is no longer an Adidas contracted athlete," the sportswear manufacturer said. Meanwhile West Ham have lost a sponsor of their own in Experience Kissimme, who had directly criticized the club's decision to start Zouma in their match against Watford on Tuesday night, hours after videos first emerged of the player kicking and slapping a pet. Private medical insurer Vitality have also suspended their relationship with the club.
"Experience Kissimmee announced today that it has ended its sponsorship of West Ham United Football Club," said the Florida-based tourism organization. They had previously said. "It was disheartening to learn that the player Kurt Zouma was part of the starting lineup in West Ham United's game (Tuesday) night."
Vitality described themselves as "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."
Though Zouma has been fined the maximum sum within West Ham's power, the decision to allow the Frenchman to start in their 1-0 win over Watford proved to be a contentious one, particularly when manager David Moyes justified it as a footballing decision. "My job was to try and win for West Ham, and put out the best team to do that," he said.
West Ham subsequently announced that they had fined the former Chelsea defender. The money will go to animal welfare charities. "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," said a statement from the Hammers.
Zouma said Tuesday: "I want to apologize for my actions. There are no excuses for my behavior, 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 behavior was an isolated incident that will not happen again."
Kurt Zouma's brother Yoan admitted he had been the one to record the video in an apology of his own. His club Dagenham and Redbridge, who play in the fifth tier of English football, condemned the players' actions.