Christian Pulisic has been criticized by conservationists for posting a video on Instagram of himself performing football tricks above a goliath grouper fish, before falling into the water and landing on top of the vulnerable marine species.
The 22-year-old Chelsea and US men’s international star, who has been spending the off-season in Florida, was sitting on the edge of a boat doing kick-ups above the fish, which was hooked on a line below him as others filmed the stunt.
Pulisic then lost his balance and landed on top of the fish, which can be seen flailing about in the water, before he climbed back onto the boat.
It was not clear where Pulisic was when the incident happened, but in the Instagram post, which has been subsequently deleted, Pulisic tagged an account linked to BlacktipH, a fishing collective based in Florida. His video was also retweeted from BlacktipH’s Twitter profile, with the caption, “Christian Pulisic living on the edge.”
They also posted a video of Pulisic catching and releasing a shark from their Instagram page.
The video, which went viral, was reposted by Blue Planet Society, which describes itself as “a self-funded, volunteer pressure group campaigning to end the overexploitation of the world’s ocean.”
“Abusing a threatened goliath grouper for a social media video is a new low,” the group tweeted in response to the video.
Atlantic Goliath groupers, which sometimes grow up to 2.5 meters, or more than eight feet, long and can weigh 363 kg, or about 800 pounds, are recognized as a vulnerable species, decreasing in population, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
“We originally posted and commented on the video because the goliath grouper is classified as threatened by the IUCN Red List and protected by law in the USA,” Blue Planet Society said in a statement to CNN.
Referring to information from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – which states that photographs of the species, or any other activities such as measuring the fish, should not delay release in any way – they added, “In our opinion Christian Pulisic’s stunt was in clear breach of these rules.”
“Animal abuse to attract attention for social media videos appears to be on the increase. We believe strongly that people should be called out for it — especially when they are as influential as Mr Pulisic.”
CNN has reached out to the footballer’s agent, to Chelsea FC, and to USMNT for comment.
Champions League winner Chelsea plays Europa League winner Villarreal in the UEFA Super Cup on August 11. Chelsea’s first Premier League is against Crystal Palace on August 14.