Dropped Stokes apol­o­gises but still loses £200,000 spon­sor­ship deal

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Front Page - By Sam Dean

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

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