The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are clearly concerned that the paper’s abysmal recent circulation figures may tank yet further - as a result not of changing tastes or the paper’s rabid right-wing politics, but over a story they chose to run about England cricketer Ben Stokes. He is likely to miss at least part of the Ashes tour this winter - and prospects against Australia have therefore taken a hit.
Ben Stokes spots a Sun journalist
Stokes is one of few players able to change the course of matches, and by not just his bowling, but his batting and fielding. He is key to inspiring the rest of the England team to give of their best, to keep their heads and spirits up at difficult times - like in the middle of a tour of Australia. And the reason he may not be going out with the rest of his team-mates is down to the Sun, and its coverage of an altercation outside a night club.
Last month, the Sun told readers that Stokes had been involved in a brawl outside a Bristol nightclub with fellow England player Alex Hales. This, though, was not sufficient exposure: the paper then released video footage of the altercation in which Stokes could be seen apparently brawling with one man, before decking another with a punch.
The BBC reported that “Ben Stokes and Alex Hales will not be considered by England for international cricket until further notice”. The Sun then doubled down and slammed Stokes for making fun of Katie Price’s son. But then the inmates of the Baby Shard bunker about turned and the reverse ferret began: “He was rightly suspended after the punch-up video we had a duty to reveal. He must lose the vice-captaincy and be fined heavily … He should also now be urged to give to a disabled charity … But it will punish every English fan too, and compromise the series in Oz, to lose our most gifted match-winner”.
Sadly for the Sun, the ECB had taken its decision. Now, with the first test scheduled to begin in Brisbane on November 23, the paper is ramping up its effort to get Stokes on the plane. “Ben Stokes praised by two gay men ‘after he saved them from homophobic yobs’ … The England vice captain, 26, could miss the Ashes after he was caught on video raining blows on two men in the street, but Kai Barry, 26, and Billy O’Connell, 20, say Stokes was defending them against homophobic abuse”.
The Murdoch goons soon enter Ron Hopeful mode. “Their claims could lead to the all-rounder being cleared over the punch-up and freed to play in the First Test in Australia next month … Billy told The Sun: ‘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’”. The Sun’s changed tack on gay men over the years, hasn’t it?
It has when the blowback from cricket fans might hurt the paper’s circulation. So it was out with the onion. “Billy said last night: ‘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 Kai’”. Yes, the Sun really, really wants Stokes to be on the plane.
The desperation of Murdoch’s finest to save their skins - because that is the point of this article, not promoting England cricket - is sickening. They wanted the sales and clicks from the initial exclusive. They didn’t put their brains in gear first. That’s their problem.