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"There seems to be a misunderstanding." How Australia found, and then lost, our first gay cricketer.

If you Google the term ‘gay cricketer’ it will take less a fraction of a second for you to be delivered the result: James Faulkner.

There’s just one significant problem.

James Faulkner is not gay.

But for one night, at the end of April, 2019, a lot of people thought he was.

He made history. Right before he… didn’t.

An Instagram post shared to Faulkner’s 340,000 followers at around 9pm on Wednesday pictured the 29-year-old , who plays for Tasmania, sitting alongside his mother and another friend.

The caption read, “Birthday dinner with the boyfriend and my mother,” and was followed by the hashtag #togetherfor5years.

Overnight, the post attracted more than 18,000 likes and hundreds of comments, most congratulating Faulkner on his bravery.

“Happy birthday mate! Great courage,” fellow cricketer Glenn Maxwell commented, with AFL player Dale Thomas adding, “Well done brother, so happy for you both.”

One word and a hashtag were enough for the media to run with it – perhaps proving our desperation to print the headline in the first place.

The only international cricketer to openly identify as gay during his career is England’s Steven Davies, a decision that was considered “groundbreaking” and “courageous” in 2011.

In Australia, you could count on one hand professional sportsmen who are openly gay. Ian Roberts was the first high-profile Australian sports person to ‘come out’ to the public as gay in 1995, and the first rugby footballer in the world.

It was only last year that French footballer Olivier Giroud said, “It’s impossible to be openly homosexual in football,” with only two openly gay professional players in world soccer.

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To have an Australian cricketer put his hand up, and add his name to a disproportionately short list of LGBTQI sportsmen, would’ve indeed been a moment worthy of celebration.

But then Cricket Australia released their statement.

“[James Faulkner’s] comment was made as a genuine reflection of his relationship with his business partner, best friend and housemate of five years. He was not contacted for clarification before some outlets reported his Instagram post as an announcement of a homosexual relationship,” the statement read.

“James and CA are supportive of the LGBQTI community and recognise coming out can be an incredibly emotional time. The post was not in any way meant to make light of this and, though the support from the community was overwhelming and positive, Cricket Australia apologises for any unintended offence.”

They also clarified that “the social commentary this morning” was never intended to be a joke by Faulkner.

Faulkner then shared an additional post on Instagram with the caption: “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.”

And just like that, we were back at square one.

In 24 hours we found, and then lost, our first gay cricketer.

Let’s hope the outpouring of support will encourage the next man, who feels his sexuality is incompatible with the world in which he operates, to publicly identify as gay.

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