Where there is no vision, the people perish; and when the people perish, so does their national game of significance. I do not blame Chris Gayle for the damaging faux pas made during a recent interview in Australia. It is another reflection of the woefully inadequate management that exists at the level of the West Indies Cricket Board.
The occurrence should also make us question what is being done at the level of respective governments of the Caribbean to train and develop sportspeople for export.
Across most of the Commonwealth Caribbean territories we still have not developed structured mechanisms for producing professional sportspeople. The observation holds true for other areas of endeavour outside of the non-traditional areas like law and medicine.
After children fail, or are found wanting in “academic studies”, they are then encouraged to “run ’bout”, or “learn a trade”. Once some talent is exhibited hitting a ball or defending stumps, a career is made for an individual somewhere between luck and chance.
Most governments in the Caribbean do not have a set of standards by which they measure sportspeople. There are no differentiations between a semi-professional and professional sportsperson; and, in both cases, formal education usually ends at the secondary level (if not before) for the sportsperson. This means that the sportspeople which we produce in the Caribbean are not as well rounded as those produced in other spaces.
The Caribbean has perpetuated the separation between sports and education in such a way that we believe that once somebody has sporting talent, they do not need the refinement of an education.
The sexist attitude of Gayle to a female journalist in a recent interview is the result of such a separation between sports and education. Education in this sense is much more than rote tests and mathematical equations. Education is also enlightenment.
Every student who has gone to a post-tertiary educational institution since 1990 would have been exposed to the discussion on feminism and women’s rights. The aim is not to have our sportspeople with degrees necessarily, but they certainly need enough of a working knowledge
of communication studies, gender studies, financial management and related fields which are needed to develop
The West Indies Cricket Board perpetuates the separation between sports and education because they, like the governments of the Caribbean, do not stringently regulate education for players. In fact, over the years, we have not even managed to create adequate training requirements for players.
There is a reason why the international sports world links education with training for scholarship talent they identify for development. Firstly, a player who has academic training benefits from the discipline and refinement which are processes of education.
Secondly, sportspeople who are trained in non-sport areas are easier to move from league to league because they have an appreciation for adapting to cultural nuances. Also, they have a better chance of finding employment once their on-field sporting careers are over.
Since our West Indian players are not required to engage in continuous professional development, faux pas like Chis Gayle’s are to be expected. Caribbean players are generally unaware of how world culture is changing and what are the pitfalls they should stay avoid.
It is not only Gayle who has run afoul of international expectations about how women are to be treated. There are politicians too who fall short of the standard, as do business owners and policymakers across the region who remain in the dark ages with respect to women’s rights. We will continue to be embarrassed as a region if we do not create legislative changes, training and behavioural adjustment programmes to recondition the Caribbean male.
In discussing the issue with my son, he asked if I thought there was a race dimension to the fine. I told my son absolutely not. Had a white man done what Gayle did, he also would have found himself on the wrong end of a social media debacle.
However, I would venture to say that white sportsmen would have been less likely than Gayle to venture into a blatantly sexist comment, because they are exposed to training and standards imposed by their respective countries and home boards.
International level sportsmen try to avoid sexism and racism in the execution of their duties. Where there are slip-ups, fines are imposed.
The clip of tennis player Maria Sharapova complimenting a male journalist on his form is, if anything, an example of how internationally trained athletes are able to skilfully stay within the subtle lines of acceptability.
Sharapova complimented the journalist on his form. In the context of the world of sport, bodies and form are not only sexual entities, they are trophies in themselves that show commitment, discipline and dedication. To tell a person that you stopped to “admire their form” is not
to sexualize a situation by blatantly asking for a date.
Moreover, the journalist to whom Sharapova directed the comment was a willing participant in the comment, whereas in Gayle’s case he refused to take the cue to move past his faux pas, and made it worse by fully being sexist with his command to the journalist that she should not blush.
Had the West Indies Cricket Board sanctioned Gayle, when in last year’s Caribbean Premier League, he told a female journalist that he could not comment on how the pitch felt because he had not yet felt hers, we would not be now facing this international scrutiny brought
on by his recurrent behaviour.
In the same way that we could see cricket’s metaphorical importance in our regional affairs in the nationalist period, surely we can see the decay in cricket as symptomatic of other elements of our society that are currently in quick decline.
Our inability to manage our affairs is all around us: babies dying in Jamaican hospitals, mothers dying after delivery in Trinidadian hospitals, governments who cannot cater to the needs of their citizenry. Try to get a driving licence renewed in Barbados, or pay road tax. The cashiers at the Pine office of the Ministry of Transport and Works only work half of a day.
At the peak of our tourist season, the Barbados Revenue Authority has run out of visitors’ permits, leaving business people who rent cars at a complete loss.
It is not only Chris Gayle whose success has left him heady and reckless. We’ve got careless as a region. We have taken our eyes off our attention to detail and international requirement.
It is embarrassing.
Are you willing to demand an apology from Gayle on behalf of the women of the Caribbean too?
(Marsha Hinds-Layne is a full-time mummy and part-time lecturer in communications at the University of the West Indies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org)