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'Protect your reputation' - Experts weigh in on Gayle's $28-million defamation award

Published:Tuesday | December 4, 2018 | 12:00 AMAkino Ming/Gleaner Writer
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Sports management expert Carole Beckford says Jamaican athletes should follow in the footsteps of Chris Gayle and take every step to maintain their reputations in order to continue to operate in the global business of sports.

Beckford's comments came after Gayle was awarded US$221,000 (J$28 million) in damages in a defamation suit brought against Australasia's leading media outlet, Fairfax Media. The case centres around a 2016 article that made several allegations against the West Indies batting legend, made by a female massage therapist.

"Athletes' performance is on and off the field, so it is an important balance to maintain at all times. Athletes' reputations are important as well as performance in their core activity , which is whichever sport they play," Beckford told The Gleaner. "If an athlete has a particular standard of operations, then the burden of proof becomes harder, so it is absolutely important for them to be on their Ps and Qs at all times."

"What I think is also important is the advisory team that the athlete has in place because in times like these, they will be able to give the right advice.

"Last year, the court had ruled in Gayle's favour, determining that Fairfax had acted maliciously towards him.

 

Gayle injured by articles

 

In awarding damages, Justice Lucy McCallum said Gayle had been injured by the published articles, noting that "the imputations had particular resonance in cricketing circles, among fans, coaches, officials and players", and adding that the allegation "gained some currency around the world".

"Having regard to his high profile and popularity as an international cricketer, the nature of the allegation and the fascination of humankind with all things salacious, particularly in relation to people of some celebrity, I accept that it probably did," Justice MacCallum said.

Renowned psychologist Leahcim Semaj said he hopes the case would also encourage the nation that solving a matter of defamation in court is better than taking things into their own hands.

"We have a tendency to not like going to the courts in Jamaica, but I wish more people would do that instead of taking things into their own hands," Semaj said.

"One's reputation is all he/she has. And it is especially so for high-profile athletes, who these days make more money off the field."