Twenty-four hours after West Indies pacer Shannon Gabriel was handed a fine and four-match suspension for a remark he made to Joe Root during the third Test in St Lucia on the third day, he offered an ‘unreserved apology’.
On Monday, the stump mics had caught Root’s response – “Don’t use that as an insult, there is nothing wrong with being gay” – which gave a reasonable indication of what Gabriel might have said. In a public statement, the bowler has provided a clearer account of what happened.
“The exchange occurred during a tense moment on the field,” Gabriel’s apology read. “The pressure was on and England’s captain Joe Root was looking at me intensely as I prepared to bowl, which may have been the usual psychological strategy with which all Test cricketers are familiar.
“I recognise now that I was attempting to break through my own tension when I said to Joe Root: ‘Why are you smiling at me? Do you like boys?’
However, Guardian Media Sports columnist Colin Murray, a former national youth player puts his perspective on the matter when he writes: West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel has been banned for 4 ODIs (or 2 test matches) because he has reached eight demerit points within a two year period, which converts to four suspension points equivalent to the ban he has received.
Gabriel’s latest misdemeanour with the authorities stems from his clash with Joe Root: the noble and upright gentleman who also happens to lead the English as captain.
Of course, this entire incident has come to light because Root’s response to Gabriel’s comment was picked up on the stump microphone remarking, “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
Having not heard Gabriel’s comment, I was thinking the worst. Could Root (who is married to a female) be gay? Certainly, if he is, that’s his choice, so why would Gabriel go down that road?
Root, who has suddenly become even more of a national hero because of his response from the UK’s Minister for Sport and Civil Society, to a number of groups in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community saying that he is a great role model for his remarks.
Gabriel has been roundly condemned when in fact we never heard what he said. Gabriel subsequently published a statement where he admitted that what he said to Root was, “‘Why are you smiling at me? Do you like boys?’ It is obvious that Root was on top of the bowling and the smile alone was upsetting Gabriel.
Gabriel’s question/comment may have been said to break the tension and to let Root know this is war and that we have no friends on the field of play. From Gabriel’s statement he “…assumed (the comment) was inoffensive picong and sporting banter.” While what Gabriel said may be culturally accepted (or not), it was said out of frustration and people must understand this. I do however believe that Gabriel should have shown more awareness for how his comment could have been, and was, interpreted as homophobic.
The management of the team could have fought the issue and labelled it as banter. But more importantly, Root could have made a statement to quell the backlash on the part of Gabriel. I personally experienced the very English call you all sorts of names and even told me who my mother was when they didn’t even know her. But like with all things, to learn is the main objective and as Gabriel has said, he embraces this “…as a learning experience and as an opportunity for myself and all athletes to recognise the need for sensitivity and respect in their interactions with all.” Well said, Shannon. Sometimes less is more.