England cricketer says he protected gay men in street brawl

England cricketer Ben Stokes, center, and his wife Clare during a lunch break outside Bristol Crown Court in Bristol, England, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018. Ben Stokes, one of the world's most expensive cricket players, knocked two men unconscious in a street brawl after flicking a cigarette end at gay men he mocked outside a nightclub, the prosecution said at the England star's trial which began Monday. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)
Watched by the media England cricketer Ben Stokes, with his wife Clare, arrive at Bristol Crown Court accused of affray, Tuesday Aug. 7, 2018. The 27-year-old cricket all-rounder and two other men, are jointly charged with affray following an alleged street brawl in September last year. Stokes contests the affray charge. (Ben Birchall/PA via AP)

BRISTOL, England — England cricket player Ben Stokes told police that two gay men thanked him for protecting them from homophobic abuse following a street brawl.

Stokes is standing trial at Bristol Crown Court accused of knocking out two other men outside a nightclub in the southwest English city in September last year.

Prosecutors say Stokes was the "main aggressor" in a fight that broke out after an England match.

But in a statement provided to police and heard in court Wednesday, Stokes said he only stepped in after hearing two men being homophobic toward two other men.

Stokes said "matters had become too serious to ignore and that I had to intervene."

Stokes himself is accused of earlier mocking the gay men outside the club and flicking a cigarette butt at them. Stokes denies taunting them, telling police they "thanked me for preventing them from being beaten up."

The trial continues.

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