A lot of opinions flying around in light of Chris Gayle’s comments to female reporter, Mel McLaughlin, on Sunday night. As usual, most of them are very black and white.
Without question, Gayle came across as looking like a tool on national television. Not only did he massively misjudge the appropriateness of his comments, he was also coolly shut down by the recipient of his comments.
Yes it looked a bit sleazy and I didn’t like the fact that he felt it was appropriate, but men make much worse efforts to compliment or pick up women every day. Considering Peter Dutton hasn’t been fined for what he said to another female reporter recently, Gayle’s fine seemed potentially harsh. I’d be interested to see what he was actually charged with, but it seems a clear indication of the power of sponsor money in the BBL clubs.
Again, I want to stress that I think the comments- intended as humour or not- were in pretty poor taste and I would prefer they weren’t laughed off as just a bit of fun, as many have tried to. I have written elsewhere that I would like to see people take greater responsibility for the impact of their words and not hide behind benign intentions. So if McLaughlin felt humiliated or singled out because of her gender, then Gayle must bear some responsibility. Still, when the sporting industry seeks to deify its players and is also accepting and even titillated by the existence of sledging between players, there are going to be times when players choose the wrong words or situation.
It is also worth recognising that there appears to be a substantial body of further evidence that Gayle’s character is questionable, with a number of former teammates and other reporters noting that this type of thing is not out of character for the man. But this is where it is important that you distinguish what you are criticising. I don’t believe this occasion on its own warranted the storm of controversy it has generated.
Those publically condemning Gayle’s behaviour need be careful not to get carried away and damage their own credibility with incautious statements, which actually generate greater pushback. I agree with the common feeling that he looked like a creep and have no problem with people calling him out for that. It also wasn’t a great look for the BBL which is aimed at families. That’s about as far as I think it should have gone though. I don’t agree with Neroli Meadows who tried to use it as an indicator of rampant sexism in cricket. I also think ACB boss, James Sutherland, is going a bit far when he said the comments could be construed as workplace harassment.
"It's not a nightclub, and I think one of the things that perhaps hasn't dawned on everyone is it's actually a workplace," was the direct quote. Yes it is a workplace, but that didn’t make it harassment. It was a single, probably tongue-in-cheek advance that was discontinued without any hostility when it wasn’t reciprocated. Does Sutherland suggest coworkers can no longer be asked out or complimented on their appearance without it? For the record I’ve had more direct comments said to me in several workplaces and never felt it constituted anything like harassment.
This media line that its reporters should be treated with greater respect by players in their workplace would probably have greater credibility if reporters treated players with more of it. It is also a workplace for players and consider the freedom reporters have to publish negative opinions on a player’s ability or their freedom to invade players’ privacy and follow them everywhere in a sustained behaviour that is closer to the definition of harassment than anything Gayle did.
When was the last time a reporter was fined $10 000 for making a player feel uncomfortable?
Another thing I didn’t like about this argument is the assumption that McLaughlin needed to be protected from this. I thought the reporter, while perhaps looking a bit uncomfortable, maintained complete control of the situation. To suggest she needs to be further protected from such a situation implies she was not in control of the situation and is arguably more offensive in the assumption of her helplessness than Gayle’s poor attempts at charm or humour.