England captain Joe Root has been praised by Stonewall, a leading UK equality charity, for challenging West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel during the third Test in St Lucia.
Root appeared to tell Gabriel “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay” after an exchange between the pair, with the comments apparently picked up on television via the stump microphone.
The nature of Gabriel’s part of the conversation was not audible but Press Association Sport understands the Trinidadian paceman was warned about his language by at least one of the on-field umpires, Kumar Dharmasena and Rod Tucker.
Kirsty Clarke, director of sport at Stonewall – which campaigns for lesbian, gay, bi and trans equality – 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.
“Stonewall research shows more than half of British people (58 per cent) believe it’s important anti-LGBT language is challenged at live sporting events.”
Former England captain Nasser Hussain, in St Lucia in his role as a television commentator, tweeted his admiration for Root’s stance.
“I don’t know who said what to whom…but boy do I applaud Joe Root’s reaction here,” Hussain wrote.
“For me his twelve 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!”
Fellow MP Johnny Mercer hailed Root’s “moral courage” in a tweet.
Speaking after finishing day three 111 not out, Root gave a measured assessment of the on-field exchange.
“It’s Test cricket, 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,” he said.
West Indies head coach Richard Pybus, speaking at close of play, told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special: “Nothing has been reported to me but if a comment was made we’ll review it and if it was untoward we’ll be addressing it.”