Sport Must Lead the Way in Stamping Out Street Violence

By
Updated: September 28, 2017
Ben Stokes, Cricketer, Durham County Cricket Club, UK

 

A mate of mine heads up a charity. It’s a good one too. The White Knight Foundation (TWKF).

It was established to help financially support the families and victims of crime and unprovoked attacks.

People like Rob Scott. He was in California three years ago and went to help a lady on the side of the street. Her jealous boyfriend didn’t like what he saw, took a swing and knocked Rob to the ground.

TWKF LogoHe fell and hit his head. The brain injury he suffered was so severe he is now blind, partially deaf and can hardly walk.

A few months ago, TWKF footed the bill for a new exercise machine to be used in the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital. 10 grand they cost.

TKWF was established in honour of Liam Knight. Ask him, he’ll tell you he’s one of the lucky ones. His resilience and permanent smile is astounding. Somehow, miraculously, he’s still around to tell his story.

Four years ago, a party gatecrasher threw a two and a half metre long steel rod at guests. It pierced Liam’s skull and entered his brain. It still defies logic that he survived.

TKWF Walk PicOn Sunday, more than 250 passionate souls joined Liam on the charity’s annual fundraising Walk Against Violence. A 10km stroll through Sydney’s northern suburbs, knowing their efforts would ultimately be put to good use – by helping the victim of yet another senseless and violent attack.

Hours later, outside a nightclub in Bristol in England’s south-west, cricketer Ben Stokes was arrested for assault.

The initial reports suggested the star all-rounder was provoked and his actions were in self-defence. Given the training elite athletes are given in public conduct, this seemed feasible. Trust me, they do become the targets of big mouths and walking egos. However, they’re also surrounded by some of the best PR spin merchants in the business. Forget grains of salt. Give me the whole shaker when it comes to crisis management statements in sport.

IMG_8422Now, the footage has emerged. And it’s ugly. It’s violent. One-sided. It’s full of rage. And despite a retreating victim who appears to be looking for the exit door, the arms swing and fists continue to fly until Stokes puts an end to the episode with a thundering right hook.

In the moments preceding the final punch, a voice, said to be that of England teammate Alex Hales, can be heard calling on him to stop.

Instead, the imposing and athletic Stokes, who has a game built on explosive power and a professional, no expense spared training regime to facilitate that, makes a beeline for the victim and finishes him off. A second man cops a slap to the face.

Warning: Graphic Content

 

What sparked it all. Who knows. No doubt there will be multiple versions of events reported.

What isn’t up for debate or spin is what can be seen in the footage. A street brawl and a king hit that could easily have had extremely dire consequences.

Debate now rages about whether Stokes should be allowed take his place in England’s squad for the upcoming Ashes series here in Australia. Incredibly, his name was announced by tour selectors just hours after his arrest became public.

A few factors may come into play with this. Stokes suffered a broken finger in the incident. There’s six weeks accounted for anyway. Then there’s the legal ramifications. Will he be forced to surrender his passport as these charges are considered?

Ben Stokes, Cricketer, Durham County Cricket Club, UKBut perhaps more importantly is the moral accountability the England Cricket Board must now ponder. The fact that Stokes is England’s blue-chip stock heading into the biggest series on their international calendar against the old enemy should not be a factor. There are some things that trump cricketing ability when it comes to earning a national cap. This is one of them.

If the ECB aren’t prepared to take a stance, should the International Cricket Council? One senses it won’t get that far.

This is a raw issue for cricket. The game itself has been a victim in the past. Former Australian test star and fan favourite David Hookes was killed by a one-punch attack outside a Melbourne bar in 2004.

Now the assailant is one cricket’s own. Not just any player either. If he’s not the best cricketer in the world, he’s probably the most talented. 336-thousand Instagram followers. 285-thousand on Twitter. There’s a whopping 678-thousand who like his Facebook page. How many easily influenced young kids are among them?

Ben Stokes, Cricketer, Durham County Cricket Club, UKOutside of sport, the names of one-punch attack victims are sadly all too familiar here in Australia. Thomas Kelly. Daniel Christie. Cole Miller. High-profile examples of defenceless young men tragically taken away from their families because of the enraged temper of another.

The most likely scenario out of all of this, now that such graphic footage has emerged, is that Ben Stokes won’t take part in this summer’s Ashes series.

However, should the PR spin turn his way and he is on the plane, a meet and greet with the team at The White Knight Foundation may help mend some of the bridges. It would at least give him a better understanding of how lucky he is to not be facing more than just a charge of assault.

Written by: Paul Cochrane – @paulcochrane

Follow The White Knight Foundation on Facebook HERE

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