The importance of promptly speaking out against bigotry

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.


  1. DonDueed says

    Is this disciplne to be set by the same authority as gave the 4-game suspension for a racist remark? If so, it will be interesting to see whether an anti-gay slur is given the same punishment as in that case.

    I’m not sure I favor such a strict approach to policing language. I’m no cricket aficionado, but by comparison with other sports I’m more familiar with, four games seems pretty harsh for this sort of offense. I wonder whether a similar case in, say, the NBA would be handled similarly. I can’t think of any examples offhand, but there must have been incidents like it.

    Hmm… I do recall a case in the NFL a few years back involving Miami Dolphins players. The details escape me at the moment, but I’m pretty sure there was league discipline, and the player involved ended up on a different team.

  2. deepak shetty says


    ? If so, it will be interesting to see whether an anti-gay slur is given the same punishment as in that case.

    It looks like that is indeed going to be the case. Gabriel was also handed a 4 match suspension.

  3. xohjoh2n says


    It might help not to think of it as policing language in general -- though many would disagree with you there, and many jurisdictions that otherwise do value free speech still have laws against hate speech -- but policing sportsmanship. Which I understand cricket likes to see itself as a pinnacle of.

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