Dropped Stokes apologises but still loses £200,000 sponsorship deal
Ben Stokes was last night dropped by his sponsor, New Balance, hours after he issued an apology to television personality Katie Price and her son for impersonating them in a video published last month.
The news that the 26-year-old’s contract with New Balance had been terminated emerged shortly after Stokes spoke publicly for the first time since he was arrested on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm in an incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September.
The England vice-captain’s deal with New Balance, which is also the kit manufacturer of the England team, is understood to have been worth more than £200,000 per year. In a statement on Twitter, Stokes said he was “so sorry” and added that it was “absolutely not my intention to offend” Price or her son Harvey, who has severe autism and is partially blind.
“Earlier this year I was shown a clip of Harvey being asked on Loose Women how he responds to internet trolls,” said Stokes. “I loved Harvey’s directness with his response – he said what most of us think but perhaps aren’t brave enough to say, let alone on live TV.
“I foolishly attempted to copy the clip after I saw it a few times. I should never have done this and I am so sorry. It was absolutely not my intention to offend Harvey, Katie or anybody else.
“I have written to both Harvey and Katie to say sorry and prior to this offered to meet in person at the end of last month with a view to also getting behind their petition about online bullying. I do hope I can put this right.”
In a statement, the company said: “New Balance does not condone behaviour by our global athletes that does not match our brand culture and values, and therefore we have ended our relationship with Ben Stokes.”
The loss of his New Balance contract is the latest twist in a saga that began with Stokes being placed under investigation by police after he was arrested in Bristol.
England’s preparations for the Ashes series that starts in Australia on Nov 23 have been damaged and it was announced last week that Stokes would not travel to Australia with the squad while he waits to learn if he will face criminal charges over the nightclub incident.
Stokes has been indefinitely suspended by the ECB, although officially they have not used the word suspension through fear of prejudicing judicial proceedings. He will miss the tour unless cleared by police, and Steven Finn will fly to Australia this month as cover.
Andrew Strauss, the England team director, said the decision to not take Stokes to Australia was due to an attempt to provide clarity for the squad and help the team’s management prepare for life without the all-rounder. However the England and Wales Cricket Board, which has stressed that “no final decision has been made” regarding Stokes, showed its support to the player this month when it awarded him a central contract.
Alex Hales, meanwhile, was last week told that he was not under investigation by police for his role in the Bristol incident and is now hopeful of restarting his career.
It is likely that Stokes will have to wait until after the police investigation and any criminal proceedings for his cricket tribunal due to concerns over prejudicing any judicial process. There are also doubts over his potential involvement in the Indian Premier League. The ECB could refuse to give him clearance to play in India.
In the aftermath of the street brawl, the incoming MCC president, Lord Maclaurin, said it felt like Stokes had “put two fingers up” to the England management.
Apology: Ben Stokes’s impersonation of Katie Price’s son Harvey in the video