West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel has been banned for the first four games of a one-day series after accepting a code of conduct charge after an alleged homophobic exchange with England cricket captain Joe Root.
The paceman was charged by on-field umpires Rod Tucker and Kumar Dharmasena after an incident on day three in St Lucia on Monday.
Gabriel’s precise words are not known, but England captain Root was heard on stump microphones responding with “don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay”.
Gabriel did not contest the charge, which related to “personal abuse”, in a brief post-match meeting with match referee Jeff Crowe, but he does not believe himself guilty of homophobic slurs, HuffPost UK understands.
The 30-year-old Trinidadian was also fined 75% of his match fee and handed three demerit points, taking his total to eight in a two-year period following previous offences against Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Root won praise for challenging Gabriel’s alleged comment after the matter was taken up by the International Cricket Council.
The England captain suggested that Gabriel “might regret” his choice of words, saying that he did not want to shed further light on the incident after England’s 232-run victory – but was more than happy with calling out this behaviour.
“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 said.
“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.”
There has been an outpouring of support for Root’s action.
UK sport minister Mims Davies said the England captain deserved huge praise for taking a stand and said his actions should “serve as an example” for others to do the same.
She tweeted: “What a leader, ambassador and huge respect for doing the absolute right thing to properly call this out.
“There is no place for it in sport.”
Leading UK LGBT equality charity Stonewall commended Root’s calm response to Gabriel in the heat of the match.
Director of sport Kirsty Clarke said: “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.”
Research by the charity has highlighted that 58% of British people believe it is important for anti-LGBT language to be challenged at live sporting events.
Steve Davies, the former England wicketkeeper who came out as gay in 2011, also 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 expressed his admiration on Twitter.
“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.”
Root also won support from the football world, with commentator Gary Lineker posting footage of the incident with the caption “perfect response” and former Arsenal striker Ian Wright tweeting “well played and well said Sir”.
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”.
Homosexuality is illegal in St. Lucia under section 132 and 133 of the island’s criminal code. It is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.