“The ICC must address homophobia in cricket”

Here is an article I wrote last year about homophobia in Sport.

“The ICC must address homophobia in cricket”. These are the words of Chris Sherwood, of Graces CC, the “world’s first LGBT cricket club”. They come a few days after West Indian cricketer, Shannon Gabriel, was charged for an “inappropriate comment” aimed at England captain, Joe Root.

Now admitting he asked Root, “Do you like boys?”, Root’s immediate response of “there’s nothing wrong with being gay” has been highly praised. Showing leadership and integrity, as well as a touch of professional class, Root quickly downplayed the incident saying, “I just did what I thought was right”. But to have a role model, such as the England captain, standing up against what he saw as homophobic abuse is critical if this sort of unacceptable behaviour is to be stamped out of the game.

Homophobia is still an issue in cricket. Given that homosexuality is illegal in five of the top ten cricketing nations – there is a prison sentence up to 10 years for any sexual activity between men in some countries of the West Indies – there is clearly work to be done. According to Sherwood, the ICC have a responsibility to tackle homophobia in the game. “They have very clear guidelines and disciplinary procedures when it comes to racism, (however) the same cannot be said for homophobia”.

Graces CC, originally founded in London in 1996 as a supporters’ club, arguably is leading the way in challenging stereotypes in the game. “We exist to provide an opportunity for people to watch and play cricket irrespective of gender or sexual orientation. Our vision is to assert upon the cricketing and wider sporting community an ideal of total equality and inclusion”. Their work, as well as other initiatives such as the ‘Rainbow Laces’ (where players, umpires and even the stumps are donned with rainbow coloured stripes) are wonderful ways to raise awareness of this issue and promote acceptance in sport.

Nevertheless, straight allies to the LGBTQ community are perhaps one of the biggest inspirations to breaking down ignorance in sport. What’s seen by our sporting heroes on TV at the weekend is very often repeated in the school yard and on pitches on Monday morning. When there are people like Joe Root who stand up for themselves and others it sends a powerful message to everyone; that there are sportswomen and sportsmen who will stand in solidarity with those who experience these derogatory slurs. After Politics and Media, Sport is arguably the most influential catalyst for changing culture. We need more clubs like Graces CC, who are involved in the community and promoting a love of sport as well as a love for our fellow competitors. We need sporting institutions to do more to combat the inappropriate behaviour from grassroots level to professional sport. But perhaps what we need most are more sportspeople to stand up and speak out against ignorance and inequality – and be our role models. Only when we change our attitudes at every level, from the Olympics to the office, and from the stadium to the school yard, will we change the culture for the better.

Originally published at: http://www.thecourieronline.co.uk/getting-to-the-root-of-homophobia-in-cricket/