Why ‘Tiger King’ Joe Exotic is mad at Florida State star Jordan Travis

Joe Exotic, the colorful star of the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King,” has put himself in the middle of the Florida-Florida State rivalry because of Seminoles quarterback Jordan Travis.

Exotic, whose real last name is Maldonado-Passage, recently fired at Travis on social media over T-shirts that depicted Travis atop a throne with a tiger. Maldonado-Passage contended that those infringed upon “my trademark, my intellectual property” as Tiger King.

“It was directed at Jordan but started with (former LSU and current Bengals quarterback) Joe Burrow,” Maldonado-Passage told the Tampa Bay Times in an email from prison in Fort Worth, Texas, via his power of attorney Tami Springer. “Sick of everyone else riding off my trademark I created before they were out of high school. I am living the hell from Tiger King, and no one is going to profit from it.”

Tiger-related T-shirts with Travis’ likeness went on sale last year after FSU’s last-second win over LSU in New Orleans. New ones are available this season with two tigers beneath him; Travis helped FSU beat LSU in the opener in Orlando and at Clemson on Saturday. None on his official website use the words “Tiger King.”

Maldonado-Passage, 60, threatened legal action in his social media posts but told the Times he has not yet found an attorney to take on the case.

The story added a rivalry angle when Joe Exotic’s account on X (the platform formerly known as Twitter) posted a photo of him wearing a Gators hat. If he could pass “the Tiger King crown to anyone,” the post read, it would be Florida quarterback Graham Mertz.

“I don’t even watch football,” Maldonado-Passage said via email. “I just thought that — screw Jordan Travis — so I would root for the (G)ators.

“Everyone wants to be the Tiger King, but no one wants to stand up for the truth that I am wrongfully in prison in my own country with evidence of video deposition that the Government witness lied and the federal agent knew it.”

Maldonado-Passage became a household name in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic because of the hit Netflix show, which also featured Tampa’s Carole Baskin and Big Cat Rescue. In 2020, Maldonado-Passage was sentenced to 22 years in prison for wildlife crimes and plotting to have Baskin killed. The sentence was later reduced by a year.

Maldonado-Passage has also announced his intentions of a 2024 presidential campaign.

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