Two gay men thank Ben Stokes for protecting them from homophobic attack
Stokes could be back in fray for the Ashes following the statements of these witnesses.
What's the story?
England all-rounder Ben Stokes could yet feature in the 2017/18 Ashes as his street brawl has taken a different turn. Two gay men, Kai Barry (26) and Billy O'Connell (20), have come forward to insist that the maverick cricketer had only protected them from a homophobic attack during that fateful night in Bristol.
In a candid chat with The Sun, Billy revealed, "We were so grateful to Ben for stepping in to help. He was a real hero. Kai feared he could be attacked. If Ben hadn’t intervened it could have been a lot worse for us. I didn’t know who they (Stokes and Alex Hales) were, I’ve never watched cricket in my life."
Kai chipped in, "I’m not a fighter and we didn’t want a fight. We could’ve been in real trouble. Ben was a real gentleman. He bought us Jägerbombs. He knew we were gay but he didn’t make anything of it. When the fight happened, it came out of nowhere. I’m not a violent person. And that’s probably why Ben Stokes stood up for me. He probably knew from the way I was speaking to them that I’m a friendly person. Towards the end of the fight, it all got a bit scary so we walked off."
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The two men have emerged to shed light into the incident following fervent appeals from Avon and Somerset Police to witnesses on the importance of helping them discern what actually happened during the night of September 25 outside Mbargo nightclub.
The heart of the matter
In what was a natural reaction to the fallout of the highly publicized episode, both Stokes and Hales were immediately placed under indefinite suspension by the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB). The all-rounder had been arrested by Avon and Somerset Police following the incident and subsequently released without any charges. Both cricketers are currently under police investigation even as ECB have also begun an inquiry into the incident.
At the end of last month, reports emerged that the victim in the street brawl was a former soldier who had served with the British Army. The video footage of the scuffle, which was incidentally released by The Sun, showed Stokes repeatedly punching the man after pinning him to the ground. Despite Hales' attempts to intervene and pacify his team mate, the 26-year old did not relent.
Upon being originally named as vice-captain, Stokes was pulled out of England's squad for the upcoming Ashes series. With the first Test scheduled to begin at The Gabba on November 23, it remains to be seen if the game-changer returns to the fray in the coming days.
When the damning video footage emerged, Stokes' reputation took a massive hit after coming under scathing criticism from public quarters. However, the statements from the two gay men could project the street brawl in a completely different light.