In international Test cricket matches, there are microphones embedded in the wickets at each end. The primary purpose is to detect any contact between bat and ball when it is too slight to be heard by the umpires who need to know to make judgments as to whether a batter touched the ball or not. But the microphones also pick up conversations between players and that resulted in an incident that took place yesterday in the Test match between West Indies and England.
I have written before about how I hate the practice of ‘sledging’ by members of rival teams, what is known as ‘trash talk’ in the US. It turns out that West Indian fast bowler Shannon Gabriel had used an anti-gay slur against the English batter, their captain Joe Root, and the latter had promptly told him that it was not acceptable.
Stump mics caught an interaction on the third afternoon of the Test between Gabriel and two England batsmen, Root and Joe Denly, which ended with Root saying: “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
Although the mics did not catch Gabriel’s earlier comments, it is understood the umpires spoke to him about them at the time. No action was taken at the time, but the incident attracted widespread media action, with Stonewall, the UK equality charity, praising Root’s stance on the issue.
The umpires had also heard the comments by Gabriel and he has been charged with a code of conduct violation that will lead to a punishment. In a recent Test match between Pakistan and South Africa, the Pakistan captain was issued a four match ban for making derogatory racist remarks to a South African player. I am glad that the cricket authorities are taking strict action against this type of behavior.
The hypercompetitive, macho attitude in professional male team sports can be conducive to this kind of speech. Speaking promptly when we hear people make bigoted remarks, as Root did, is something that is not easy to do but is necessary. Root took the right tone by speaking calmly and not angrily. Anger can arouse defensiveness and even entrench negative attitudes in the person who made the remarks.