By now you’re aware that Chris Gayle gave one of the more controversial interviews of recent times to Channel 10 Reporter Mel McLaughlin during the Big Bash League game between the Melbourne Renegades and Hobart Hurricanes. In this interview, Gayle asked his interviewer out for a drink, complemented her eyes and told her not to blush. McLaughlin ignored the comments and moved on to her next question.
This interaction struck a chord with a viewing public and within the space of an advertising break the commentary team, led by Mark Howard, made it clear that they considered these remarks inappropriate. There have still been some dismissing the remarks as merely playful, and the controversy as unnecessary.
In considering the appropriateness of Gayle’s comments it is important to consider context. Gayle’s comments occurred in the workplace. The Big Bash League may be entertainment for us, but for Gayle and McLaughlin this is a work environment. While Gayle’s comments may have been fine for a bar on a Friday night, clearly in the workplace they are not a fitting way to interact.
An appropriate response from Gayle would be to apologise for his comments. Regardless of his intent, the context of his remarks renders them unsuitable. The comments may not have been malicious, but inappropriate behaviour in the workplace rarely is. Ignorance of what is appropriate and what is a professional relationship is often to blame.
This is an important ‘teachable’ moment, in which a public discussion about inclusive behaviour in the workplace can hopefully provide guidance for all men about what language is appropriate at work. This is neither the first nor the last time a person has behaved inappropriately in the workplace. But it is one of the more visible, and Gayle has an opportunity to be influential in changing behaviour across the country, provided he first owns his mistake.
The Big Bash League, Cricket Australia and the Melbourne Renegades can also play a role here. One would hope that in this summer in which cricket has made such strides through the coverage of the Women’s Big Bash League that these organisations would also make statements about these comments calling for better workplace behaviour. The Big Bash League boss, Anthony Everard, has already made strong comments about Gayle’s behaviour.
The one upshot of this was McLaughlin’s supreme professionalism. I considered myself in this position, and I could already feel my heart pound at the thought of having to continue working in the public eye with the full knowledge that the footage of your work was currently going viral – and not for reasons you would necessarily want.
McLaughlin should be applauded. Hopefully she can continue to be a model of professionalism we can all aspire to.