England’s World Cup cricket hero Ben Stokes has lashed out at The Sun after the newspaper published “extremely painful and sensitive” details of a family tragedy.
The player said the article about his family would have “grave and lifelong consequences” for his loved ones.
In a statement on Twitter, Stokes lambasted the paper, which carried the story on its front page on Tuesday, accusing it of being focused on “chasing sales” regardless of the emotional impact on his family.
It came after The Sun revealed details of how relatives of Stokes had died in New Zealand before he was born.
Stokes branded the paper “heartless”, claiming they sent a reporter “out of the blue” to speak to his parents to “sensationalise our personal tragedy”.
He also asked for his privacy to be respected in further coverage of the story.
He wrote in the tweet: “Today the Sun has seen fit to publish extremely painful, sensitive and personal details concerning events in the private lives of my family, going back more than 31 years.
“It is hard to find words that adequately describe such low and despicable behaviour, disguised as journalism. I cannot conceive of anything more immoral, heartless or contemptuous to the feelings and circumstances of my family.
“For more than three decades, my family has worked hard to deal with the private trauma inevitably associated with these events and has taken great care to keep private what were deeply personal and traumatic events.
“On Saturday, the Sun sent a 'reporter' to my parents' home in New Zealand to question them, out of the blue, on this incredibly upsetting topic. If that wasn't bad enough, the Sun think it is acceptable to sensationalise our personal tragedy for their front page.
“To use my name as an excuse to shatter the privacy and private lives of - in particular- my parents, is utterly disgusting. I am aware that my public profile brings with it consequences for me that I accept entirely. But I will not allow my public profile to be used as an excuse to invade the rights of my parents, my wife, my children or other family members.
“They are entitled to a private life of their own. The decision to publish these details has grave and lifelong consequences for my mum in particular.
“This is the lowest form of journalism, focussed only on chasing sales with absolutely no regard for the devastation caused to lives as a consequence. It is totally out of order.
“The article also contains serious inaccuracies which has compounded the damage caused. We need to take a serious look at how we allow our press to behave. Despite the fact that this has now been made public, I do please ask all concerned to respect my family's privacy and right to home life.”
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Stokes received the full backing of the England and Wales Cricket Board, whose CEO Tom Harrison also put out a strongly-worded statement.
“We, like the wider sporting world, are disgusted and appalled at the actions taken in revealing the tragic events from Ben’s past,” said Harrison.
“We are saddened that an intrusion of this magnitude was deemed necessary in order to sell newspapers or secure clicks.
“Ben’s exploits this summer have cemented his place in cricket’s history – we are sure the whole sport, and the country, stands behind him in support.”
Stokes is a household name in the cricket world and his star rose even further during his remarkable Ashes and World Cup campaigns.
While his efforts with the bat throughout the English summer have been well-documented, a devastating family tragedy hasn’t.
Ben has never spoken publicly about the tragedy.
Ben Stokes’ Kiwi heritage
Stokes was born in New Zealand but moved to England with his family when he was 12.
His father Gerard, who played rugby league for New Zealand, was then coaching in England.
Stokes has remained in England ever since, though his parents returned to live in Christchurch.
His Kiwi heritage saw him nominated for New Zealander of the Year after his heroics to help England win the World Cup - against New Zealand no less.
New Zealander of the Year chief judge Cameron Bennett said Stokes "might not have been playing for the Black Caps but, having been born in Christchurch where his parents now live and with Maori ancestry, there's clearly a few Kiwis about who think we can still claim him."
Stokes, 28, now has two young children of his own with partner Clare Ratcliffe.
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