England cricket captain Joe Root has been the recipient of a great deal of praise after he responded to homophobic abuse in the Third Test Match against the West Indies in St Lucia. In response to comments which remain unknown made by the West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, Root replied, “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.” And he’s right. But why then, if the England captain feels so strongly about homophobic abuse, is he taking a team to a country where homosexuality is illegal and anyone convicted can face a prison sentence of between five to ten years?
Yes, I know that you can find fault with pretty well any country in the world. You might think twice about going to America which still routinely executes criminals. How about Dubai which has been described as “a morally bankrupt dictatorship built by slave labour?” Or Spain, where bull-fighting is still a thing. Where do you draw the line? How do you avoid accusations of hypocrisy? Tricky, isn’t it?
On balance, provided the likes of Joe Root have the courage to speak out against, in this instance, homophobia, it’s probably a good thing that England have played in St Lucia, although it’s fortunate that the England team is entirely heterosexual. If there had been a gay player in the side and the St Lucian authorities had got wind of it, doubtless he’d have been removed from the team hotel, found guilty of homosexuality and sent to prison for a decade.
Shannon Gabriel has behaved like a dick. He’s been banned from some future games but what he really needs is education. Homophobia still plagues our world. It’s not just sport. And we all need to call it out.