Sexism in sport, especially in ‘the gentleman’s game’ can be subtle, and hard to identify and root out.
It is especially hard to crack,if it is played down, justified or outright denied as having happened when it occurs.
As a sports journalist, Mel McLaughlin was interviewing Chris Gayle about an innings he had played.
The response she received was contempt for her capacity as a reporter, as Gayle asked her out for a drink, before telling her ‘not to blush’; ignoring the cricketing question.
Banter? Or disrespect? One thing is for sure, he thought he could get away with it.
As it was live on air, everyone saw it. It led to the West Indian opener being fined $10,000, and making a grovelling apology.
There was real no malice in the comment, but at the same time his apology is somewhat hollow.
He said it was ‘a simple comment, a joke’ that “wasn’t anything at all meant to be disrespectful or offensive”, showing he doesn’t understand that what he did was unprofessional at best, and sexist at worst.
There is a time and a place for flirting, and it isn’t during a live interview. I dread to think what he thinks he’s entitled to do off-air.
Mel followed by accepting his apology, adding she wants to ‘move on.’
At which point, many took the opportunity to continue to play down Gayle’s comments.
BBL commentator and ex-England star Andrew Flintoff began proceedings, by calling Gayle ‘a bit of a chop.’
Before it’s time to ‘move on‘, nothing to see here.
Other public figures trivialised the matter too.
Ireland’s Niall O’Brien said Gayle ‘asked a lady out for a drink live on TV’, whilst Paul Nixon, retweeted a comment that it was just ‘humour’ adding that people should ‘move on.’
Then Aussie Hockey star Georgie Parker, and Piers Morgan, were both retweeted by Northants batsman, Josh Cobb.
Parker, instead of saying it’s wrong whoever does it’, ultimately says it’s better to try it herself out next time herself, to prove it’s OK when a woman does it too.
Whilst Piers Morgan dismisses Gayle’s total lack of respect for a female journalist as ‘being a bit cheeky’.
Following Parker’s comments, England women’s legend, Clare Connor, contributed something a little more thoughtful, outlining alleged double standards, which Parker was referring too.
Instead of just saying ‘I’ll do it too’, she raises the question of whether it’s right.
Cobb, then adds that he needed a little explanation.
Maybe he should get in touch with Clare Connor for a lesson?
Ex-England allrounder Adam Hollioake said ‘you can’t have it both ways’. Chris Gayle is a bit of a character, therefore it’s OK for him to be unprofessional and ridicule a woman interviewer.
I guess women should just put up with this type of humiliation? It’s just banter after all.. move on, move on,
What he doesn’t get, is that it isn’t about a lynchmob baying for justice.
It’s about other professional cricketers saying ‘this isn’t acceptable’, and setting an example.
Like the ever-reliable Chris Rogers, who said:
“From my time at the Thunder [with Gayle] I was very disappointed with his attitude and his behaviour, and I’ve not been a fan since.
People see these one-offs, but this is a pattern of behaviour. If you know the guy, you see it over and over. To defend it, I think, is not right at all.
I listen to that and I don’t think it’s funny at all – he says it’s just a joke, well it’s not just a joke, is it?
And Waqar Younis and Shoaib Malik:
And ex-Kiwi bowler, Iain O’Brien:
Whilst it may be the case that what Gayle said was nothing demonstrably spiteful, the lengths others are going to excuse it is baffling, as it’s ultimately the root of the issue.
For that reason, Gayle should not be made a scapegoat. He shouldn’t be banned, and a fine was a both symbolic and a pittance.
There needs to be a more fundamental approach that challenges a culture in a male-dominated sport.
The wise head of Harsha Bogle perhaps summed it up best: