A English court recently found pro cricket player Ben Stokes innocent of affray (an old-timey British term for public fighting and disturbing the peace) after Stokes got into a 2 a.m. street brawl with two men on Sept. 24, 2017. Stokes claimed the men he fought had been harassing two gay men on the street. Immediately after the fight, his sponsor, New Balance, dropped him. His team also suspended him, awaiting the results of the police investigation before deciding what to do with him.
According to Stokes’ testimony, the then-26-year-old had been drinking with his teammate Alex Hales and had ingested “three to four beers, six vodka and lemonades and ‘a few Jägerbombs'” before allegedly seeing the two men on the street lunging with bottles in hand at a gay couple outside of the Mbargo nightclub in Bristol.
Video footage of the fight showed Stokes throwing approximately 15 punches, one of which left the alleged harasser on his back in the street. The man reportedly suffered facial injuries. Ben Stokes suffered a broken finger.
Stokes was arrested and placed in jail for the night. He and Hale were then suspended from any team games until the trial concluded.
Morgan tweeted, “Stokes has told friends he was incensed by the homophobic taunts, then saw the bottle being raised & decided to defend himself. Stokes obviously regrets what happened but apparently his view is: ‘They started it, I finished it. I was protecting those guys.’“
At first it wasn’t clear whether Stokes himself had created the story as an alibi. But then the gay men, Kai Barry and William O’Connor, came forward to corroborate his story.
Although the men didn’t testify during Stokes’ trial, Barry told newspapers, “I got [hit by a bottle] and Ben jumped in to defend me. The prosecution said he was homophobic, but we never saw any of that. If he didn’t like me … then he wouldn’t have stuck up for me in the first place.”
“We’re delighted that he’s been cleared. He risked his career for us,” Barry said.
What do you think of the Ben Stokes saga?
Featured image via Red Bullabuse England homophobia