England cricket captain Joe Root has been widely praised for telling West Indies opponent Shannon Gabriel: “There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”

On-pitch microphones during Tuesday’s (February 12) test match picked up Root’s response to the bowler, but failed to record what Gabriel had initially said to provoke the response.

Microphones picked up Root saying: “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” Sky Sports News has reported.

The teams were playing in Saint Lucia, where anyone found guilty of having gay sex can face up to 10 years in prison.

Root declined to reveal what Gabriel had said in an interview after the close of play, telling Sky News: “It’s Test cricket.”

“Sometimes people say things on the field that they might regret, but they should stay on the field”

— Joe Root

“He’s an emotional guy trying to do everything he can to win a Test match. Sometimes people say things on the field that they might regret, but they should stay on the field,” Root added.

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“He’s a good guy who plays hard cricket and is proud to be in the position he is. The battle was a good contest, he’s had a wonderful series and he should be proud.”

Activists and sportspeople commend Joe Root

Root was commended by Stonewall‘s director of sport Kirsty Clarke, who told PinkNews: “Tackling offensive language is a crucial part of helping LGBT people feel welcome in sport.

“Language is really influential and it’s great Joe Root stepped up to challenge abusive comments.”

“Stonewall research shows more than half of British people (58 percent) believe it’s important anti-LGBT language is challenged at live sporting events. Our Rainbow Laces campaign is about giving people the confidence to tackle this abuse and show their visible support for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, on and off the field,” she added.

England captain Joe Root talks to the media after Day Three of the Third Test match between the West Indies and England at Darren Sammy Cricket Ground on February 11, 2019 in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
Joe Root and his team were playing in Saint Lucia, where gay sex is illegal (Shaun Botterill/Getty)

“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.”

Former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain also praised Root, who was eventually bowled out by Gabriel after scoring 122 runs—more than any of his teammates.

Hussain tweeted: “I don’t know who said what to whom… but boy do I applaud Joe Root’s reaction here.

“For me his twelve words as a role model will be in the end more important than a test hundred or possible victory.”

And former England footballer Ian Wright wrote: “Joe Root. Well played and well said Sir.👏🏽👏🏽👏🏽”

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