Tuesday 26 March 2019

'There's nothing wrong with being gay' - England captain Joe Root praised for standing up to alleged homophobia

England's Joe Root shakes hands with West Indies' Shannon Gabriel after the match
England's Joe Root shakes hands with West Indies' Shannon Gabriel after the match

Rory Dollard

England captain Joe Root stood by his decision to challenge West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel after the paceman found himself charged by the International Cricket Council for on-field comments during the third Test.

Root was on his way to a century on day three in St Lucia when he responded to an inaudible outburst from Gabriel by telling the Trinidadian "don't use it as an insult. There's nothing wrong with being gay".

Gabriel was warned about his language by the on-field umpiring team of Rod Tucker and Kumar Dharmasena, who later decided to lay a formal charge against the 30-year-old. It will be adjudicated upon in the first instance by ICC match referee Jeff Crowe.

Root, who suggested on the third evening that Gabriel "might regret" his choice of words, did not want to shed further light on the incident after England's 232-run victory but was more than happy with his own part, which has been widely lauded back home.

"The ICC have got to handle things and I am not in a position to comment but throughout the series it has been played in the right manner between the two sides," he offered.

"They are a good bunch of guys and it would be a shame if this tarnishes it. As a player you feel you have responsibilities to uphold on the field and I stand by what I did.

"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."

Stonewall, a leading UK LGBT equality charity, had earlier led the plaudits for Root's calm response to Gabriel in the heat of battle.

Kirsty Clarke, director of sport at Stonewall, told Press Association Sport: "Language is really influential and it's great if Joe Root was willing to challenge potentially abusive comments.

"The more players, fans, clubs and organisations that stand up for equality in sport, the sooner we kick discrimination out and make sport everyone's game."

Steve Davies, the former England wicketkeeper who came out as gay in 2011, applauded Root's stance on Twitter.

The Somerset player wrote: "There is no room in the game for any form of discrimination.... Well done @root66 and @englandcricket #Respect"

Former England captain Nasser Hussain, in St Lucia in his role as a television commentator, also tweeted his admiration.

"I don't know who said what to whom...but boy do I applaud Joe Root's reaction here," Hussain said.

"For me his 12 words as a role model will be in the end more important than a Test hundred or possible victory."

There was also support from the football world, with Gary Lineker posting footage of the incident with the caption "perfect response" and Ian Wright tweeted "well played and well said Sir".

British politicians were also quick to show solidarity. Mims Davies, the Tory MP and minister for sport and civil society, posted: "YES @root66 What a Leader, Ambassador and HUGE RESPECT for doing the absolute right thing to properly call this out!"

Meanwhile, fellow MP Johnny Mercer hailed Root's "moral courage" in a tweet, while Nigel Owens, who came out as gay in 2007 and refereed rugby union's World Cup final in 2015, said Root's response was "wonderful and hugely important".

West Indies head coach Richard Pybus, speaking on Monday, told BBC Radio's Test Match Special: "If a comment was made we'll review it and if it was untoward we'll be addressing it."

Gabriel has been charged under article 2.13 of the ICC code of conduct covering directing "language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature".

Press Association

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