Star Australian cricketer James Faulkner has sent the majority of mainstream media into a tailspin this morning, after countless outlets fell over themselves to cover an Instagram post in which Faulkner “came out” as being in a same-sex relationship.

The only problem there being: He isn’t.

Last night, Faulkner posted a photo to Instagram from a birthday dinner, which was accompanied by the caption “Birthday dinner with the boyfriend and my mother #togetherfor5years.” Earlier this morning, Faulkner edited the caption with the slightly more clarifying addendum “boyfriend (best mate!!!)

The post, which appears to have been made with tongue-in-cheek intentions for whatever that’s worth – but we’ll get to that in a moment – sparked an ocean of knee-jerk coverage from media outlets raging from NewsCorp publications, the Daily MailThe Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, and even less likely offenders such as the ABC and The Guardian, all of whom practically vomited over the story, which was taken as immediate and irrefutable gospel without so much as a second thought.

After the story broke, Cricket Tasmania and Cricket Australia issued hasty statements on the matter, asserting Faulkner was not in a same-sex relationship, that the man in the photo was his business partner, and that the whole ordeal was a “joke that has been taken out of context.”

Following that, media outlets scrambled to edit their original posts. News.com.au switched their headline from “Cricketer comes out as gay” to the slightly less culpable “Cricketers react to James Faulkner’s Instagram post.” Fox Sports switched up their headline to the arms-length “James Faulkner’s intriguing Instagram post.” The ABC, who you’d expect might know better, amended their original article that blind-covered the post with the barnburning non-admission “had the post been genuine, he would have been the first professional male Australian cricketer to come out publicly.

Meanwhile over at the Mount Everest-like pile of goat turds that is the Daily Mail, they’ve taken a somewhat different angle:

Classy as always, assholes.

Faulkner making a poorly-executed coming out joke is, let’s be clear about this, a piss-poor effort. While maybe *intended* as good-natured banter, the seriousness of coming out is not to be underestimated for LGBTQI people. It is a source of great power, angst, relief, and anxiety in the lives of LGBTQI people – particularly that of youth – and having prominent straight men use “coming out” as a punchline in the public spotlight is a diminishing, distancing, and disempowering act.

But the immediate media coverage is just as baffling and shitty in this case. Australia’s morning newsrooms virtually cannoned into each other to report a completely unconfirmed story, angling it as absolute fact despite its extremely sensitive subject and clear lack of detail, while exhibiting an overall lack of care that boggles the mind. It’s galling in the case of NewsCorp and the Daily Mail even though they are *gestures vaguely* like that, but it’s staggering conduct from the likes of the ABC and Guardian who should – and do – know better.

An absolute mess from top to tail. Not a single party comes out of this looking good.

UPDATE: Faulkner has now made a clarifying post on his Instagram, asserting he is “not gay” and that last night “marked five years of being house mates.”

Image: Getty Images / Morgan Hancock