MELBOURNE – West Indies opener and Twenty20s premier batsman Chris Gayle has been fined $10,000 by the Melbourne Renegades for his comments during an interview with Channel Ten journalist Mel McLaughlin during Monday night’s BBL match in Hobart.
The Renegades chief executive officer Stuart Coventry announced the sanction at a press conference in Melbourne today and said that Gayle’s fine would be donated to the McGrath Foundation.
The incident was described by Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland as “borderline harassment”, but the Renegades stopped short of suspending Gayle. Coventry said he believed the incident – in which Gayle used a mid-match interview to ask McLaughlin out and told her “don’t blush, baby” – was a one-off.
“We had a look at some history and precedents established in the past, the circumstance that was in place this time, and we think that this is a one-off scenario,” Coventry said when asked how the Renegades had decided on the fine. “We looked at Chris’ attitude over the last four or five weeks in the Big Bash and we think it has been outstanding. We’ve come up with a fine scenario.”
Sutherland said that Gayle had been left in no doubt that any repeat behaviour would result in a far heavier penalty. “I reiterate my view that Chris got it badly wrong last night,” he said. “We are working incredibly hard to ensure cricket is a sport for all Australians – men and women, boys and girls – and we just won’t tolerate behaviour that undermines that ambition.
“The public’s damning response to his comments demonstrate just what people expect of our elite cricketers. As the sanction has been imposed by his club, CA will not be laying a charge under our Code of Behaviour, but we will be formally putting Chris on notice that if anything like this happens again in the BBL, the consequences will be far more severe.”
Yesterday other female reporters said they had experienced similar moments with Gayle, including the Fox Sports reporter Neroli Meadows, who described Gayle as “a repeat offender”. Coventry said he was “unfamiliar with what those journalists have said and the grounds behind that and the evidence behind that”.
When asked if he acknowledged Gayle had had similar issues in the past, Coventry said: “Not that we’ve seen. We’ve done a fair bit of history and research today and we do think it is a one-off. As explained this morning we think it’s probably more of a cultural difference, why he said it, and it was done in jest, but it was inappropriate and we’ve taken this course of action.”
However, a similar incident had occurred during a 2014 Caribbean Premier League press conference when Gayle was asked by a female reporter how the pitch felt, to which he replied “Well I haven’t touched yours yet, so I don’t know how it feels”. He went on to tell the reporter “I like your smile, that’s nice… yeah, that’s really good.”
Following the incident with McLaughlin, Gayle made an apology of sorts at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport this morning, but he said he had been unable to speak to McLaughlin in person.
“There wasn’t anything meant to be disrespectful or offensive to Mel. If she felt that way, I’m really sorry for that. There wasn’t any harm meant in that particular way, to harm any particular person in any particular way like that. It was a simple joke – the game was going on. Things get out of proportion but these things happen,” Gayle said.
Coventry said Gayle had “acknowledged that his comments were out of line” and that while he was surprised by the $10,000 fine, he had taken it well.
“The club would like to extend a formal apology to Mel McLaughlin,” Coventry said. “Mel is an outstanding sports presenter. We think of her very highly, and the club and players will ensure we work with her in a professional and respectful manner in future.”
For those who sought to play the incident down, Sutherland said it was a major infraction by Gayle in a competition designed to help strengthen cricket’s appeal to women.
“I think it’s a pretty significant mishit by Chris Gayle. Those comments are completely out of line and inappropriate and something that we don’t in any way condone, and there’s no place in cricket or the Big Bash League for those sorts of comments.
“The circumstances last night was live television and I don’t think anyone should be put in the sort of position that Mel McLaughlin was put in. It’s not a nightclub, and one of the things that hasn’t dawned on everyone is it’s actually a workplace. It’s Chris Gayle’s workplace, it’s also Mel McLaughlin’s workplace and those sorts of comments border on harassment and are completely inappropriate in cricket, inappropriate in a workplace.”
McLaughlin has not spoken since the incident, and was complimented by Sutherland for the way she had handled it.
“I’d just like to acknowledge the highly professional manner in which Mel McLaughlin dealt with the situation, and our thoughts are with her,” he said. “I’ve certainly left a message for her to let her know we’re absolutely supportive of her and understand the difficult predicament she was put in yesterday.
“Anyone who sees the humour in that is misunderstanding and somewhat delusional about the situation. I think they’re forgetting as well that it’s a workplace situation. It’s inappropriate and it’s very, very public. That just goes to the point about how inappropriate and ‘not cool’ that is.”