England cricket captain applauded for calling out homophobia

Joe Root (Pic: Facebook)

West Indies cricketer Shannon Gabriel has apologised after receiving a four-match ban for making a homophobic comment, while his opponent has been praised for his response.

During the third day of the St Lucia Test against England on Monday, Gabriel asked England captain Joe Root: “Why are you smiling at me? Do you like boys?”

Root has been widely commended for his response to Gabriel, in which he said: “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”

The International Cricket Council (ICC) found that Gabriel was guilty of breaching article 2.13 of the ICC Code of Conduct which relates to “personal abuse of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an international match.”

Gabriel admitted the offence after the end of the match on Tuesday and accepted the sanction. As such, there was no formal hearing required.

The fast bowler also issued a statement, saying that he extended “an unreserved apology for a comment which in the context of on-the-field rivalry, I assumed was inoffensive picong [teasing] and sporting banter.”

“I know now that it was offensive and for that I am deeply sorry,” he said, adding that, “I embrace this as a learning experience and as an opportunity for myself and all athletes to recognise the need for sensitivity and respect in their interactions with all.”

UK sport minister, Mims Davies, praised Root on Twitter and said that he did “the absolute right thing to properly call this out! He is completely right as there simply is NO place in any sport, at any level for discrimination, intolerance and prejudice.”

After the match, Root explained that, “I just did what I thought was right. You have responsibility to go about things in a certain manner on the field and it felt appropriate to act how I did.”

He was also applauded by Kirsty Clarke from UK LGBT group, Stonewall. “Tackling offensive language is a crucial part of helping LGBT people feel welcome in sport,” she told The Guardian. “Language is really influential and it’s great Joe Root stepped up to challenge abusive comments.”

Christopher Sherwood of Graces Cricket, the world’s first LGBT cricket club, pointed out that homosexuality is “illegal in five of the top 10 cricketing countries in the world and while this does not excuse homophobia on the international cricket stage, it can help explain it.”

He called on the ICC to make a concerted effort to “use the sport as a tool for legal and social change with respect to homosexuality.”

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