West Indies cricketer Chris Gayle finally found some form playing for the Melbourne Renegades in the T20 Big Bash League last night, belting 41 off 15 balls to set his side up for a win over home side the Hobart Hurricanes.
But everyone’s talking about Gayle’s performance in a sideline TV interview with Channel 10 journalist Mel McLaughlin in which he told her he was there “just to see your eyes for the first time”.
He continued “Hopefully we can win this game and have a drink after. Don’t blush, baby”.
“I’m not blushing,” she replied, pressing on with the interview before the 36-year-old opener made another comment about McLaughlin’s eyes.
Former English cricketer and BBL commentator Andrew Flintoff was one of the first people to call out Gayle for his behaviour.
— andrew flintoff (@flintoff11) January 4, 2016
But Channel 10’s sports Twitter account appeared to initially endorse Gayle’s behaviour, posting this tweet before subsequently deleting it.
Laughter was also heard in the Channel 10 commentary box during the interview before and fellow commentator Andy Maher seemed to place an each way bet on the incident.
Chris Gayle. So wrong. But a little bit right.
— Andy Maher (@MGMaherSEN) January 4, 2016
But a short time later the commentary box took on a more serious tone with commentator Mark Howard saying the station did not condone Gayle’s comments and action was being taken.
BBL CEO Anthony Everard issued a statement saying Gayle’s comments were “disrespectful and simply inappropriate”.
“We’ll certainly be talking to him and the Renegades about it. This league is all about its appeal to kids, families and females,” he said.
“There’s just no place in the BBL – or, for that matter, cricket anywhere – for that sort of behaviour.”
Late on Monday night, Network Ten said it would no longer use Gayle, who had been fitted with a microphone and helmet cam during matches, in its coverage.
Other female sports journalists made it clear how difficult their job was at times, with BBL journalist Angela Pippos saying this:
— Angela Pippos (@angelapippos) January 4, 2016
And as the debate over the issue raged across social media, with veteran female sports journalist Debbie Spillane summed up the reaction she got after condemning Gayle’s behaviour:
Interesting that I'm accused of having no sense of humour by ppl who think a sportsman propositioning a female reporter on live TV is funny.
— DebbieSpillane (@DebSpillane) January 4, 2016
The response former Olympic athlete David Culbert received after he called it a disgrace was typical of the reaction of many who wondered what the fuss was all about.
@Culbert_Report Dude, chill! It was just a joke. Go find something that's genuinely outrageous to be outraged about.
— Damien James (@damien_james_) January 4, 2016
It demonstrates that one person’s workplace harassment remains another’s “joke”.
And that’s the problem.