The world, queer and straight, let out a collective sigh when Australian cricketer James Faulkner posted a picture on Instagram about having a birthday dinner with “boyfriend”, and wrote “#togetherfor5years”.
This led many to believe that the all-rounder had opened up about his sexuality, which would have been a watershed moment in the history of cricket had it been true. Many even came out in support of the cricketer’s apparent coming out:
Brilliant James, wouldn’t have been easy to come out as a cricketer at the International level
— Sohum Paranjpe (@Brohum8) April 29, 2019
— BiswaDeep (@biswadeeptamang) April 30, 2019
Happy Birthday James….and congratulations on your anniversary. Wishing you happiness always.
— John Kent (@johnkkent) April 29, 2019
— Manjunathab (@iamrbmanjunatha) April 29, 2019
However, hours later, Faulkner clarified that there was a “misunderstanding” about his previous post and that he wasn’t actually gay. He wrote that Robert Jubb, the person who he had called ‘boyfriend’ in the previous post, was actually just a friend and that they were marking five years of being “house mates”.
View this post on Instagram
There seems to be a misunderstanding about my post from last night, I am not gay, however it has been fantastic to see the support from and for the LBGT community. Let’s never forget love is love, however @robjubbsta is just a great friend. Last night marked five years of being house mates! Good on everyone for being so supportive.
This led to mix reactions, with some claiming that Faulkner had made a mockery of the LGBT movement, which others said that the term of endearment was blown out of proportion.
So many comment pieces about to hail you as a hero. All lying wasted in the drafts…
— Siddhartha Vaidyanathan (@sidvee) April 30, 2019
I get it all the time when I say “I’m hanging out with my brother tonight.” and invariably people will say “He’s Chinese. Was he adopted?”
We use the terms that best suit the person we’re talking about.
— Ross Buchanan (@maxbuc70) April 30, 2019
You made a mockery of a struggle that is very real for lots of people. Disgraceful.
— mattylike (@mattylike) April 30, 2019
LGBT community had a pride moment which lasted for few minutes until Cricket Australia @cricketcomau asked James to take back his comments.
— Abhijit Kenavdekar (@abhi_goa) April 30, 2019
The backlash though was significant, as Cricket Australia had to put out a statement, apologising for any ‘unintended offence’ that might have occurred because of the Instagram post.
“Cricket Australia does not consider the social commentary this morning from James Faulkner to be a joke, nor does James. His comment was made as a genuine reflection of his relationship with his business partner, best friend and house mate of five years.”
However, the entire incident has put the spotlight back on the lack of players who openly identify as LGBTQ+ in cricket and other major sports. In 2011, former English wicketkeeper-batsman Steven Davies was one of the first active players in Cricket to open up about his sexuality in an interview.
Last year, South Africa women’s cricket team captain Dane van Niekerk married her teammate Marizanne Kapp. They were only the second couple to marry after New Zealand’s Amy Satterthwaite and Lea Tahuhu got engaged in 2014, before getting married in 2017.
In football, equality campaigners condemned homophobic chants during a match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Old Trafford stadium in the UK on April 28. In 2018, France’s World Cup-winning striker Olivier Giroud said that it was “impossible” for a professional footballer to come out as gay. He also mentioned that it was “an understatement” to say that the sport is not ready to accept an openly gay player after former German international player Thomas Hitzlsperger come out in 2014.