Gayle fails to score
Chris Gayle’s controversial remarks to female Australian sports reporter Mel McLaughlin, on live television, have elicited a global response of tsunami-scale proportions, sparking a raging debate concerning sexism, professionalism, double standards, culture, political correctness, and sexual harassment.
While being interviewed by McLaughlin for Network TEN, during a Big Bash League (BBL) game, Gayle remarked: "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."
The BBL blasted his comments as being “disrespectful and simply inappropriate”, and he was fined AUS$10,000 (US$7,200) by his club, the Melbourne Renegades.
Reactions to Gayle’s remarks have ranged from disgust with him to wondering what the big deal is all about. But it is a big deal, with comments in social media exposing not only the chauvinistic attitudes of many Jamaican men, but also the tolerance of some of our women regarding such behaviour.
For example, Jamaican sports commentator Oral Tracey defended Gayle, emphatically stating that a man has a right to “look” a woman “anytime, anywhere”. Tracey’s proclamation is irresponsible and provides warped ground rules for our young men regarding pursuing women. If one subscribes to Tracey’s notion, it is acceptable for a judge to “look” a female defendant on the witness stand during a court case, a policeman to “look” a female suspect at a crime scene, and a doctor to “look” an injured female patient on a gurney in an emergency room.
Some may argue that all is fair in love and war, and that many persons in successful marriages and common-law relationships met their spouses on the job. This is true, and there would not have been an issue if Gayle had approached Ms McLaughlin respectfully after the cameras had stopped rolling and the microphones had been switched off. The point is that there must be boundaries, and failure to recognise and respect them will lead to discomfort, as was the case with Ms McLaughlin.
But an inconvenient truth has also come to light during this brouhaha, and it is that Gayle is a serial offender. While playing for the Jamaica Tallawahs in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in Antigua in 2014, a female reporter asked Gayle, “How does the pitch feel so far in terms of the training, the weather?” Gayle responded by saying, “Well I haven’t touched yours yet so I don’t know how it feels.” Australian cricket legend Ian Chappell reported, “Every woman I spoke to [about Gayle] who’s working at the cricket, you got the same answer from. They were quite adamant about it.”
Indeed, Fox Sports' Neroli Meadows claims that Gayle is a “repeat offender”, well known for making inappropriate remarks to female journalists. She claimed that “he has done it before, he's done it to me, he's done it to several women”, “he does this constantly” and that “he is a creep”. ESPNCricinfo's Melinda Farrell also reports that Gayle made inappropriate remarks to her before a press conference. Two female friends of mine who work in the Jamaican media have also shared stories with me of encounters that they had with Gayle, including some while on the job, that left them feeling uncomfortable.
So, what was Chris Gayle’s response to the recent backlash? At a press conference, his arrogance was unfortunately on display for all to see as he offered a half-hearted apology. He referred to his remarks as “a simple joke”, and when someone remarked that the reporter was upset, Gayle, obviously irritated, bluntly retorted, “Can you be quiet and let me finish?”
A woman then asked, “Why should she have to feel uncomfortable while she is at work?”, to which Gayle responded by dismissively asking, “Did she tell you that she was uncomfortable?” When the woman replied that McLaughlin had told her boss that she was, Gayle reacted by saying, “All right, have a good day,” and walked away, terminating the interview.
His unrepentant behaviour during the meeting clearly demonstrated his unwillingness to accept that McLaughlin took exception his comments, and acknowledge that his behaviour was unacceptable. In her own words, McLaughlin said that Gayle’s comments were “unexpected” and “disappointing”, and that she would have preferred to have been talking about cricket instead.
To add insult to injury, Gayle then took to Instagram and posted a photograph of himself, with teammate Dwayne Bravo, wearing a T-shirt featuring a gold Playboy bunny reading '$EXSELLS', and mocking his fine, stating, “Pockets are empty so @djbravo47 paying the dinner bill tonight.”
Gayle is a first-class cricketer, but, unfortunately, his class appears to be confined to the pitch. He needs to appreciate boundaries apart from those encircling his playing area. Those of us who know better must teach our young men that members of the opposite sex are human beings with feelings, deserving of respect and not just vehicles for female genitalia, placed on the planet for our pleasure.