Why the outrage over Chris Gayle's on-air comments is totally justified
Less than a day has passed since Chris Gayle’s tongue in cheek, yet controversial comments on air to Network 10 reporter Mel McLaughlin and so much has happened already. Not only has he received plenty of scorn from social media, but he has also apologised and been fined by his franchise, Melbourne Renegades.
Before we go further, let us first start at the beginning and establish some context to the entire narrative.
After smashing a 15-ball 41 against the Hobart Hurricanes, which all but secures a win for his side and keeps their faint hopes of qualification alive, he holes out in the deep and is sent back to the dugout, wherein he is interviewed by McLaughlin.
A cricketing question leads to the reporter being asked out on a date. Gayle said: “Your eyes are beautiful, hopefully, we can win this game and then we can have a drink after as well. Don’t blush baby.”
Cue all the scorn from social media for his comments, including former England all-rounder, Andrew Flintoff, who is also part of the BBL commentary team.
Matters aren’t helped by a tweet sent out by the network, describing Gayle’s comments as “#smooth" being deleted almost immediately, which Network Ten’s Head of Sport David Barham later described as a mistake by "an inexperienced social media producer".
Why is it a big deal?
There is something to be said for doing things the right way. Then there is also a case to be made for just doing it and not worrying about what the consequences might be.
Gayle’s comments towards the female reporter seem to fall into the second category, wherein an established player was of the opinion that everything he said might be taken in good spirits and not too seriously.
While he might have meant it in jest, as he explained in his apology, it was still unprofessional. Upon being asked a cricketing question about his innings that all but sealed a win for his side and his injuries, Gayle turned the conversation into one that is suitable in a nightclub and not a cricket pitch.
The mere fact that he didn’t answer the question and made a pass at her is enough reason for it to be a big deal. Before someone else brings in Maria Sharapova flirting with an Australian journalist in a post-match interview in January 2014, let me assure you that was unprofessional and wrong as well.
Just because people don't talk about it as much, doesn't make it right, a mistake is still a mistake, even if no one talks about it.
The next reason why the outrage is justified is perfectly described Australian journalist and bigbash.com.au columnist Angela Pippos, who posted the following message on Twitter.
Spoils all the good work
Sports has always been a male-dominated area, whether it is on or off the field of play. The fact that female players and journalists are only starting to make headlines in sport in the past few decades, speaks volumes about just how male-centric sport is.
And it is all the more so in cricket, where until a few years ago, female cricket teams weren’t even professional and had to rely on another job to make ends meet. The fact that female journalists are slowly starting to emerge now is a testament to the fact that the sport has become less rigid and more open to change.
What Gayle's comments does is to trivialise women into objects once again and lead us back into the dark ages, when cricket was a sport watched by men, played by men and spoken about by men.
The rise of female commentators, both in BBL and IPL, have done a great deal to improve their image and portray themselves as experts who provide insight, instead of just being there to provide eye candy.
McLaughlin was a sports reporter trying to do her job and the fact that the West Indian opener didn't let her and treated her differently implies that perhaps even in the minds of modern cricketers, that stereotype of females still isn’t completely lost.
It wasn’t a simple joke
Let’s get back to the present where Gayle has since apologised and been fined $10,000 (AUD) by his side, Melbourne Renegades for his comments. In his apology, which has also drawn plenty of criticism, the opener described it as a “simple joke”.
"A lot of things have flared up from a simple comment, a joke, a simple joke on air and it seemed to went out of proportion," Gayle said at Melbourne airport. "There wasn't anything at all meant to be disrespectful or offensive to Mel and if she felt that way I'm really sorry for that.
"There wasn't any harm meant in that particular way to any particular person like that. It was a simple joke, the game was going on. Entertainment, things get out of proportion but these things do happen. There wasn't any harm done, I'll leave it at that. I'm sorry for that, we'll have to move on.”
He also added that he tried to contact her and apologise to her directly, but that he was unable to reach her. While the words do sound genuine, one can’t help the feeling that was anything like a heartfelt apology. While that might also be because he didn't feel he did anything wrong,
If it seems like too much of a stretch to suggest that this was work-place harrasment, let me assure you that people have been sued for much less than what was said by Gayle.
In short, not only were Gayle’s words disrespectful to a female journalist, but it was also unprofessional. While his fine might not seem like a lot, one hopes that he learns from his mistake and doesn’t let his tongue slip yet again, for his batting is a joy to behold and another similar remark might rob him off an opportunity to bat, which would be a shame.