Chris Gayle is a jerk and the Melbourne Renegades are no better. The $10,000 fine for Gayle’s comments to Network Ten’s Mel McLaughlin is a joke. It’s just beer money to Gayle, whose reported yearly earnings are in the millions.
Any responsible sporting organisation would sack Gayle immediately. Yet the Renegades have done their best to downplay the incident. In announcing the fine, franchise CEO Stuart Coventry described the McLaughlin interview as a “speed bump.”
According to Coventry, Gayle’s “attitude… [has] been first class and outstanding” since joining the Renegades, and the interview was a “one-off scenario.” With the rest of the Windies’ boys, Coventry added, Gayle has made time for “families, kids, females, girls, wives [and] husbands.”
Obviously, Coventry and franchise chairman, Jason Dunstall, didn’t do their homework before signing Gayle. He’s got form with the bat, but also when it comes to treating women journalists disrespectfully and unprofessionally.
During the 2014 Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Gayle was questioned by a female journalist on the “feel” of the wicket. Gayle responded: “Well I haven’t touched yours yet so I don’t know how it feels.” He then added, “I like your smile; that’s nice.”
As with the Renegades, the CPL’s organisers immediately moved into damage control. The tournament’s major drawcard, the CPL and Gayle’s Kingston-based franchise, the Jamaica Tallawahs, had to protect their brands.
A CPL spokesman told the Antigua Observer that “Chris is excited for the tournament and was having a laugh with a journalist, who had a laugh back; there was no malice intended.”
Neither Gayle’s remark nor the CPL’s explanation pleased Caribbean women’s groups. Head of the Women Against Rape group, Alexandrina Wong, slammed Gayle’s comments as “sexist and hegemonic”, and called for an apology from both the player and the CPL.
No action was taken against Gayle and he was left to pile up the runs and bank the earnings from his fat contract.
Gayle loves social media and currently has 2.75 million twitter followers. Many are undoubtedly attracted by Gayle’s willingness to titillate them with his Blokesworld-type adventures.
Like that other blokey caricature, Warnie, the online Gayle thinks he’s ‘hot’. He hasn’t taken a selfie in the shower, yet, but he has used his mirrored ceiling to snap a shot of himself scantily clad and draped across his “Hanky-panky” bed.
He’s even got a strip-club in his Jamaican home. As he recently posted; “if u don’t have a strip club at home, U ain’t a cricket ‘Player’”.
It’s not difficult to find on the net photos of Gayle with bikini-clad women. There are even snaps of him ‘dirty dancing’ with Bollywood starlet and Playboy model, Sherlyn Chopra.
Women are used to promote Gayle’s boudoir snake image. It lures followers to his Twitter and Instagram sites where they track his amorous adventures and check out the latest range of Spartan bats, Adidas shoes and numerous other skilfully placed products.
After the McLaughlin interview, Gayle posted photos of his empty bed and his latest Playboy inspired t-shirt. My personal favourite is the snap of Gayle in a t-shirt emblazoned with “Girls love my c**k flavour”. It’s not hardcore, but certainly not a photo that promotes the Renegades’ commitment to kids, wives and the rest of the family.
Perhaps the franchise could put out a warning reminding Renegades’ followers to access Chris Gayle’s online material responsibly.
Now allegations have surfaced that Gayle once ‘hit on’ another respected female journalist, Neroli Meadows, and, in a Fairfax Media report, exposed himself in the Windies’ dressing-room during the recent World Cup to a woman “working around the West Indies team”.
Gayle’s management group, Insignia Sports International, released a statement on Wednesday denying the allegations.
“As Chris’s management group, we have obviously been following recent events closely,” the statement read.
“Chris denies the allegations published by Fairfax Media earlier today.
“It is important that anyone seeking to make false accusations against Chris be aware that Chris and his management will be considering all rights and legal options available.
“There will be no further comment from Chris or his management at this stage.”
If the allegations are proven true, this type of behaviour cannot be excused as “a cultural thing”, as Coventry suggests.
Such explanations smack at racial and cultural stereotyping, and are insulting to those in the Caribbean and elsewhere working for racial and gender equity.
There is enough dirt on Gayle for the Renegades to do the responsible thing and cut him from the playing list. But this is where it gets tricky. Sporting clubs and franchises love to talk up their values and cultures.
Cutting a player of Gayle’s crowd-pulling power will test whether the Renegades and Cricket Australia have the moral ‘ticker’ to act in a socially responsible way or are more interested in their financial bottom-lines.
Tom Heenan teaches sports studies at Monash University.