The trial of England cricketer Ben Stokes has heard evidence that he ridiculed a gay couple before brawling with two men.
Stokes, 27, is accused of affray, or engaging in a public fight, outside a nightclub in Bristol in September 2017. In the fracas, two men, Ryan Ali, 28, and Ryan Hale, 27, were knocked unconscious. They are also on trial for the same offence.
All the men have denied the charge and Stokes claims that he was acting in self-defence and that his use of force was “reasonable and entirely justified.”
Following the fight, Stokes was initially hailed as a hero for defending a gay couple – Kai Barry and William O’Connor – from homophobic abuse on the night in question
“We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero,” O’Connor told The Sun in October. “Kai feared he could be attacked. If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us.” O’Connor added: “I’m not a fighter and we didn’t want a fight. We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.”
Evidence presented in court this week, however, alleged that Stokes himself was homophobic.
Bouncer Andrew Cunningham claimed that the dispute began when Stokes and teammate Alex Hales were not allowed back into the club in the early hours of the morning because it was closed. Cunningham alleged that Stokes became aggressive towards him and then mocked two gay men outside the venue.
The Guardian reported that Cunningham claimed that the cricket star gestured at the “flamboyant, extrovert and openly gay young couple” and mimicked “their voices and mannerisms in a derogatory manner.”
After the fight, Stokes was arrested and was forced to drop out of the final in the third ODI against West Indies because of a hand injury. He also lost a sponsorship deal with New Balance. As a result of the trial he is not able to play in the second Test match against India this week.