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Editorial: Churlish Chris Gayle; and sexual harassment

Published:Wednesday | January 6, 2016 | 1:00 AM

Chris Gayle has just about perfected the art of forming the ass. His now-infamous interview with Australian reporter Mel McLaughlin represents egomaniacal contempt for women that is an embarrassment to Jamaica's sporting fraternity and the country at large.

Gayle, 36, is one of the West Indies' and the world's most swashbuckling batsmen, known for imperious blows to bowling attacks and an imposing influence on cricket matches, particularly in the Twenty20 and one-day formats. He is also an entrepreneur, operating a thriving sports bar in the New Kingston business district.

But he displays an arrogance that betrays faith that he has matured since his foray into cricket as a schoolboy.

Gayle, fielding questions in a live interview in front of thousands of fans at the stadium during a Twenty20 Big Bash match in Hobart, Australia, made a pass at Ms McLaughlin, telling her, "I wanted to have an interview with you as well, that's why I'm here. I get to see your eyes for the first time, it's nice. Hopefully we can win and go for a drink after. Don't blush, baby."

Besides the juvenile nature of his pickup line, Mr Gayle's behaviour smacked of sexist disregard for the professional capacity of Ms McLaughlin and showed disrespect to cricket fans who were interested in hearing analysis of his knock at the crease and the prospects of his franchise, Melbourne Renegades. What made it worse was that he was so obtuse that he interpreted Ms McLaughlin's cringing at his creepy proposal as blushing.

He has since been fined AU$10,000 and publicly condemned by the cricket organisers and commentators.

It's not the first time Mr Gayle has taken a time warp into adolescence. Eighteen months ago, in Antigua, he responded to a journalist's query about the quality of the cricket pitch during training, saying, "Well, I haven't touched yours yet so I don't know how it feels. I like your smile; it's nice."

We don't presume to instruct Chris Gayle on his romantic pursuits in private. However, when reporters, or others, are operating in their professional capacity, such advances are anathema. His half-hearted apology indicates a deeper cynicism for female journalists as hairdos, make-up and dresses holding a microphone or notepad.

 

UNWELCOME AND UNCOMFORTABLE

 

Gayle failed to appreciate that a cricket ground is part of a sport reporter's work environment and that civil and professional courtesy and protocol should be adhered to in such circumstances. This chauvinism, and worse, is not unfamiliar in many workplaces in Jamaica, and can give rise to advances that are unwelcome and uncomfortable.

And that is why we endorse the move to enact legislation in Jamaica to protect both men and women from sexual harassment. Already, critics inside and outside Parliament are bristling at any attempt to stifle what they believe is a subcultural norm - and that a little sweet talk is harmless.

But any allowance for primitive catcalling may eventually spiral into a toxic and asphyxiating environment for workers who perceive that resistance could trigger victimisation, whether by co-workers or bosses, threatening the opportunity for promotion or leading to job separation. Jamaica should no longer tolerate a free-for-all feel-for-all.

Attempts to trivialise workplace-harassment concerns as alarmist should be deplored. After all, would the homophobes be as assertive of the right of gays to solicit their affections on the job?