England cricket captain Joe Root has said he told West Indies opponent Shannon Gabriel there was “nothing wrong with being gay” because it was the right thing to do.
On-pitch microphones recorded Root telling Gabriel, “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay,” during Tuesday’s (February 12) test match.
Root refused to reveal what Gabriel said, but explained that “as a player, you feel you have responsibilities to uphold on the field and I stand by what I did,” according to The Guardian.
“I just did what I thought was right. It felt appropriate to act how I did,” added the England star.
“Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
Joe Root responds to sledging from Windies bowler Shannon Gabriel.
— Sky Sports Cricket (@SkyCricket) February 12, 2019
The on-pitch microphones did not pick up what Gabriel said, but umpires Rod Tucker and Kumar Dharmasena have charged the bowler with breaking the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) code of conduct, according to Reuters.
The West Indies cricketer is accused of breaching Article 2.13, which involves “directing language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature” at a player or official.
Gabriel could be fined half of his match fee and banned for up to four matches.
The teams were playing in Saint Lucia, where anyone found guilty of having gay sex can face up to 10 years in prison.
England fans also seemed to show their support for Root’s stance on the final day of the match.
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They sang LGBT+ classics “YMCA,” “It’s Raining Men,” “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)” and “A Little Respect” at Gabriel after the incident, according to the MailOnline.
Activists and sportspeople praise Joe Root
Root was commended for his on-field remarks 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.
“I don’t know who said what to whom… but boy do I applaud Joe Root’s reaction here.”
— Former England cricket captain Nasser Hussain
“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.”