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EDITORIAL - Gayle's slip of the lip

Published:Saturday | July 26, 2014 | 12:00 AM

When the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) cricketers roll into the city for their weekend matches, we expect that Chris Gayle, captain of Jamaica Tallawahs, will continue to be dogged by controversy arising from alleged sexist remarks made in Antigua recently.

At a news conference in Antigua, Gayle was asked by a female reporter: "How does the pitch feel so far in terms of the training [and] the weather?" Gayle responded, "Well, I haven't touched yours as yet, so I don't know how it feels."

This evoked some laughter from the reporter and colleague journalists and Gayle followed up by telling the reporter how much he liked her smile. For a moment there, Gayle apparently forgot that this was a press conference and not a private tête-à-tête.

Our assessment is that Gayle gave a flippant, non-thinking response which, typically, is heard from the lips of public officials and celebrities.

Perhaps Gayle intended to say he had not had a chance to take a look at the pitch so he could not make an assessment. But it did not come out that way and, in fact, the remarks stirred a hot debate in Antigua and Barbuda, with one women's-rights group there condemning them as "sexist", while members of the public have been calling for him to apologise for those remarks.

MAKING LIGHT OF IT

The CPL, riding on its success from last year's inaugural series in the region, would rather bask in the renewal of the game and reap the rewards expected from renewed interest by fans than to deal with controversy at this time. So it has chosen to make light of the matter, saying: "Chris is excited for the tournament and was having a laugh with a journalist, who had a laugh back; there was no malice intended."

But the arguments persist that Gayle was disrespectful and there are continuing calls for him to apologise. Some have even proposed that he be fined and/or suspended.

We think the CPL gave a weak response to this incident. There is something called 'conduct contrary to the spirit of the game', and this kind of off-colour remark appears to qualify for such a designation. The fact that an official at the press conference had to urge Gayle, sotto voce, to "stick to cricket", is an indication that at least some persons thought he had crossed the line.

A more appropriate response would include a public apology, and we believe the CPL should have a strong talk to Gayle to discourage this kind of flippancy in future for he ought to understand that as a role model and leader in his sport, he is expected to act with decorum. Undoubtedly, he is a talented cricketer, but much more is expected from him than powerful hits and clever off spin.

Sport is played on the field, and it imparts some valuable lessons to society about endurance, courage and strength of character. However, off the field, there are also important lessons of propriety and sportsmanship, for sports can shape the very foundation of a society.

The confidence of the public is critical to the CPL's success. Conduct that endangers this confidence or reflects negatively on the game should be discouraged at all costs.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.