With his participation in the upcoming Ashes still under a cloud following the brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol last month, controversial English all-rounder Ben Stokes found the backing of two gay men, who praised him for defending the duo from a homophobic attack that night.
According to a report by The Sun, two gay men Kai Barry (26) and Billy O’Connell (20) supported the claim made by Stokes in the wake of his arrest on suspicion of actual bodily harm, of coming to their defence when they were subjected to homophobic attacks.
Barry and O’Connell claimed they met Stokes and Alex Hales in a nightclub on the evening of September 24 (after England’s ODI victory over the West Indies) and Stokes bought them drinks.
They said they had no idea they were cricketers.
“We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero. Barry feared he could be attacked. If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us,” O’Connell was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
Barry added: “I’m not a fighter and we didn’t want a fight. We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman.”
“We couldn’t believe it when we found out they were famous cricketers. I just thought Ben and Alex were quite hot, fit guys. We only found out when a policeman came round this week,” he further said.
Both players have been suspended indefinitely by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Stokes was initially named as England vice-captain for the upcoming Ashes, but was withdrawn from the squad earlier this month, pending further investigation.
Coming out in support of the all-rounder, Billy said: “Ben is a really nice guy and I hope he can still play for England in the Ashes. It would be awful his career was ruined over this. He was just trying to help defend Barry.”
The Ashes will start on November 23, with England touring Australia for five Tests and as many One-day Internationals before engaging in a T20 tri-series, also involving New Zealand early next year.