I forgot Joe Exotic existed. The Tiger King was the king of Netflix for a few months in 2020, and his fame vanished almost immediately afterward. Even Tiger King Season 2 wasn’t enough to bring Joseph “Exotic” Maldonado-Passage back into the forefront of American pop culture. Now, the man is imprisoned, sentenced to 21 years on numerous federal charges of animal abuse as well as attempted murder for hire, but that’s not stopping him from trying to give his stepson a damn good birthday present.
On Friday, it was revealed that Maldonado-Passage sent a handwritten letter to former Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger asking him for a signed jersey for his stepson’s birthday.
The letter, which is dated March 30, 2022, is interesting to say the least. After all, if all Maldonado-Passage really wanted was an autograph for his stepson, why would he feel the need to mention Carole Baskin, PETA, or the Big Cat Public Safety Act at all. It’s almost like there was a different reason for why he sent this letter out. Why not just say “Hey, my stepson is a big fan of yours and it would mean the world to him if you’d give him an autographed jersey. Thanks, bye?” If there’s one thing I can assure Mr. Exotic, it’s that Roethlisberger has no interest in big cat politics and if he did, I’d hope he’d be in favor of introducing a law that protects lions and tigers in the wild. At least he should be.
Furthermore, the letter claims that Maldonado-Passage promised his stepson a signed Roethlisberger jersey. Come on, Joe, you have to know better than to promise things you can’t feasibly get. In your letter, you claim that your fans “helped get everything else he wanted.” You also claim that it costs $600 for an autographed Roethlisberger jersey on eBay. How can your fans get you everything your stepson wanted, yet not have $600 for a jersey? Also, I just checked eBay, and while I can’t speak to the authenticity of the signatures, I saw three jerseys, with viewable, reasonable-looking signatures, going for less than $400 before shipping. Like, how hard did you really look? That took me one search.
I will give Maldonado-Passage some credit though. He does appeal to Roethlisberger’s emotions in the final paragraph of his letter. I’m not talking about the part where he calls Big Ben his stepson’s hero. That’s cliché and played-out. I’m talking about the part where he says, “Can you help a man out that is fighting for his own freedom?”
Big Ben knows all too well about “fighting for his freedom.” He had the “fight of his life” after allegedly raping a woman in his Lake Tahoe hotel room in July 2008 (lawsuit was filed in 2009). He was forced to “fight for his freedom” again in 2010 when a college student accused him of raping her in a bar. How can someone who has been through as much as Roethlisberger not help Joe out now? From a man in prison to someone who could be, this was a brilliant move by Joe Exotic.
I hope Roethlisberger doesn’t give the jersey to Exotic’s stepson. That kid needs a better role model than Big Ben, and if not getting his jersey is what it takes, then that is a sacrifice worth making.