“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?’…”
The following statement was issued by West Indies cricket team bowler Shannon Gabriel on Wednesday 13 February, after he was issued with a four match ODI ban for violating Article 2.13 of the ICC code of conduct with ‘language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature’ during their third Test match against England:
It is now public knowledge that I have been disciplined with a four-match ban for a comment made on the field during the third Test match between the West Indies and England in St Lucia.
To my teammates and members of the England team, especially their captain Joe Root, I extend an unreserved apology for a comment which in the context of on the field rivalry, I assumed was inoffensive picong and sporting banter. I know that it was offensive and for that I am deeply sorry.
A number of friends and well-wishers have reached out to me, anxious to offer their support and to enquire about exactly what had happened.
I think I owe it to them and to all supporters of West Indies cricket to provide an accurate record of what transpired. This is the spirit in which I offer the following.
The exchange occurred during a tense moment on the field. 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?”
His response, which was picked up by the microphone, was: “Don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay.”
I then responded: “I have no issues with that, but you should stop smiling at me.”
Following the incident, on the advice of the manager of the West Indies team, I signed a document presented to me which confirmed that I had breached the ICC’s Code of Conduct. Since I had signed it, there was no need for a hearing and the ICC determined that I should serve a four-match suspension.
Joe Root and I have since spoken and I am comforted by the fact that there are no hard feelings between us. I think it is fair to say that neither of us ever expected the use to escalate to the point that it has. Nonetheless, I embrace 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.
I would like to thank everyone who has reached out to me with their support and advice and to assure them, my teammates and all fans of West Indies cricket of my continued commitment to the sport and to the team.