‘Tiger King’ star Carole Baskin says it’s ‘irresponsible’ fans are being allowed at Super Bowl

Joe Exotic, tiger cub petting and private possession of big cats are not the only things Carole Baskin disapproves of.

Baskin, the CEO of Big Cat Rescue who was featured in the Netlflix documentary series “Tiger King,’’ is opposed to the Super Bowl being played during the coronavirus pandemic.

The game is being held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, about 12 miles from Baskin’s animal sanctuary, home to tigers, lions and other “big cats.”

“I just think it’s irresponsible for people to be gathering in large groups, even though I understand they’re saying this is a much smaller group than they’ve ever had,’’ Baskin said, referring to the 22,000 fans the NFL said will be allowed to attend Super Bowl 55 on Feb. 7. “But it doesn’t matter that it’s a smaller group. It’s way more people than should be exposed to each other for the purpose of watching a game.

“We are right now dealing with life or death on this planet and I think every one of us should be doing our part to stay home.”

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Carole Baskin, founder of Big Cat Rescue, walks the property.

Baskin said she stopped offering tours at her Big Cat Rescue on March 15 because of COVID-19 concerns. Five days later, “Tiger King’’ premiered and turned her into a controversial celebrity.

She voiced criticism of Joe Exotic (a.k.a. Joseph Maldonado-Passage), who ran an exotic animal park in Oklahoma, and in January 2020, was convicted of trying to have Baskin murdered.

Exotic was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of violating the Lacey Act for falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. But during a recent interview, Baskin sounded more concerned about the Super Bowl than her old nemesis from “Tiger King.”

“What I have seen is every time there’s a big event, whether it be a protest or a political rally, after that thing happens there’s this huge uptick in the number of local people who (test) positive for COVID-19,” Baskin said. “And there’s no way if you bring 22,000 people to Tampa, from all over the place, that you’re not going to see that same kind of huge uptick in cases here. There’s nothing that would justify that sort of risk-taking.”

But Baskin still indirectly will be promoting the Super Bowl.

On Thursday, one of her tigers — tigress Dutchess — will predict the Super Bowl during an event to be aired on YouTube. In previous years, the prediction was handled by a tiger named Kali.

“We retired Kali after her wrong prediction last year,” said Afton Tasler, operations manager and media producer for Big Cat Rescue.

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