Cricketer Ben Stokes admits he almost quit sport after arrest for defending gay couple

England captain Ben Stokes holds a cricket ball while playing a match

England cricketer Ben Stokes has revealed he contemplated quitting the sport after he was charged with affray for defending a gay couple.

On September 25, 2017, Stokes was arrested after allegedly punching two men, Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali, in a street brawl outside a nightclub in Bristol.

He claimed the two were harassing two gay men, and that he acted to defend the pair. In August 2018, Stokes was found not guilty of affray by a jury in the Bristol Crown Court.

The England Test cricket captain has remained silent on the incident in the years since, but opened up about it in his new Amazon Prime documentary, Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes.

According to the Star Observer, the renowned sportsman said he has never spoken about the incident because he “wasn’t allowed to”, and admitted that it led him to consider quitting cricket at one point.

After Stokes was acquitted he returned to lead the Test team.

Of the incident and subsequent case, Stokes said: “Sometimes I say to myself: ‘If I had just let that happen and walked on, I wouldn’t be here, that wouldn’t have happened.’

“But I probably would have never forgiven myself for ever walking past something like that.”

During his trial in 2018, Stokes denied allegations that he mocked the gay couple, Kai Barry and William O’Connor, for their “camp behaviour”, and instead told the court he was defending the couple for what he thought was imminent threat.

He defended his actions in court, reading from a  statement: “These men were speaking to the gay guys in what I would call a harsh and abusive way.

“It was homophobic in nature. It wasn’t at all like banter.”

The 31-year-old was acquitted after the jury heard evidence from the gay couple, who later told the media Stokes was a “hero”.

Nothing good happens after midnight.

In the documentary, Ben Stokes explains that when the incident took place, he was on a regular night out with his teammate, Alex Hales. 

He told filmmakers: “Nothing good happens after midnight… We were looking for a casino to go to. 

“You notice something when two random guys are saying stuff to two other guys, which they shouldn’t be doing.

“The two lads who were getting the abuse were gay. The two lads who I ended up having an altercation with were taking the piss out of them for being gay.”

Of his response to what he saw, Stokes said: “Seeing red is probably the wrong way to say it.

“But as soon as a bottle got brought out and he tried to hit one of my friends at the time, Alex, and then one of the guys that we stepped in to help. Then (I saw red).”

Stokes told the court that the other men threatened to “bottle” him. Ryan Ali an Ryan Hale were also cleared of affray

England captain Ben Stokes in blazer and cap smiles at the toss

England captain Ben Stokes at day one of the second test match between England and South Africa at Old Trafford on August 25, 2022 in Manchester. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

CCTV captured the brawl in a video that went viral and led to Stokes being arrested, and to his losing his sponsorship with clothing brand, New Balance.

Kai Barry and William O’Connell, the couple Stokes had defended, told the media in 2018 that the cricketer should never have faced a trial in the first place. 

They went on to say Stokes should receive a knighthood following his triumphant performance in the Ashes match against Australia in 2019. 

Barry previously told The Sun: “There’s no question he should get a knighthood. He saved us, now he’s saved the Ashes.

“Ben risked his career for us. He’s my hero. He’s showed immense strength of character.”