By Nisha Shetty
Oops, he did it again. Chris Gayle, cricket’s ladies’ man, man’s man, man about town, found himself in the firing line. This time, it’s for what he thought was a “simple joke”.
Unsurprisingly, a big percentage of people on social media has come to Gayle’s defence, some rolling their eyes about how the world needs to lighten up, some pointing out how cricket needs characters like Gayle, and others explaining why the woman – Mel McLaughlin – should be grateful, honoured even.
In fact, someone even warned me against writing about the issue, as it would hurt my reputation. But I decided to take a leaf out of Jennifer Lawrence’s book (well, essay on the wage-gender gap in Hollywood) and get “over trying to find the ‘adorable’ way to state my opinion.”
Watching the video of the interaction between Gayle and McLaughlin, the Channel Ten reporter, the self-proclaimed World Boss comes across as a real-life version of Johnny Bravo, trotting out lame lines like, “That’s the reason why I’m here, just to see your eyes for the first time.” McLaughlin’s discomfort is unmissable.
She was just trying to do her job, but now she’s been reduced to a cocktail-party joke. Being seen as a pretty face first and a professional second is something a lot of women in sport seem to face. Whether it’s being asked to twirl or being asked out for drinks, the moral of the story is to just be a good sport. Because the men will decide when something inappropriate is said to women, they’re the experts.
The point that most people are missing is that the whole incident happened on camera for the world to rewind and replay, which makes the moment roughly 20 times more embarrassing than if it was at a bar. I remember speaking to a cricketer, who, after I finished the interview, started peppering me with questions before asking if I was busy later that evening. I told him I had to transcribe some quotes and that was that. Had the exchange been on YouTube, it would have been mortifying.
That, like what McLaughlin dealt with, wasn’t banter. It was a nuisance. And a nuisance, which guys don’t have to deal with. Nobody is disagreeing that cricket needs its characters, but as Neroli Meadows toldABC Grandstand, “You can still be entertaining without humiliating somebody else”.
For his part, Gayle has apologised, but by retweeting Piers Morgan, it’s clear he still doesn’t really get what the fuss is about. It’s stuff like that that makes sweeping incidents like these under the carpet a much more appealing option.
Chris Rogers, who captained Gayle at Sydney Thunder earlier, was one player to be critical of the West Indian opener’s attitude. “His apology, he’s basically saying ‘Oh well, if she feels bad about it well then I’m sorry about that’, but he’s not actually saying that he’s sorry that he said it, and that is disappointing because he has to realise at some stage – you know, I’d be the first one to admit that there’s been times that I probably let myself down with my behaviour, but you grow up. You start making better decisions, and he needs to start making better decisions,” Rogers told Grandstand.
The issue, of course, isn’t just Gayle’s burden. It’s cricket’s. Denying that there is a problem until it becomes too big to ignore, or refuting its existence altogether isn’t going to help things in the long run. Rectifying it begins with admitting there is a problem in the first place, and the game would be well served if more people can take that big, first step.