Cricketer Chris Gayle apologises to female TV journalist over sexist comments

Melbourne Renegades star says his remarks to Mel McLaughlin calling her "baby" and asking her to drinks on air were a "simple joke" that has been blown "out of proportion"

Mel McLaughlin's now infamous interview with Chris Gayle (screen grab, source Channel 10)

A somewhat ill tempered Chris Gayle has said he meant no offence to Channel 10 sports reporter Mel McLaughlin after being widely condemned for making sexist comments in a pitch-side interview with her during a Big Bash cricket match. 

Gayle caused a Twitter storm after telling McLaughlin that she had beautiful eyes, asking her for a drink and telling her "don’t blush, baby". McLaughlin ended the interview shortly after.

Melbourne Renegades have fined Gayle A$10,000 for the "inappropriate and disrespectful" comments, according to a statement from club CEO Steve Coventry. 

Speaking at a hastily arranged press conference at Melbourne airport today, Gayle was visibly annoyed when told that McLaughlin was upset over the incident, telling the report to be quiet and let him finish.

"There wasn’t anything meant to be disrespectful or offensive to Mel. If she felt that way, I’m really sorry for that," Gayle said.

"It was a simple joke. The game was going on. Entertainment, things get out of proportion but these things happen. It wasn’t any harm done and like I said, I will leave it at that. I’m sorry for that."

Gayle then abruptly ended the press conference after being asked by one reporter whether McLaughlin should have been made to feel uncomfortable in her workplace.

McLaughlin has yet to comment on the incident publicly.

She has received a huge outpouring of support on social media, from fellow journalists and other sports stars. 

Former Australia cricketer Ian Chappell told 3AW that Gayle should be suspended for his "arrogant" apology, while James Sutherland, head of Cricket Australia, said the comments "border on harassment".

Coventry, CEO of Melbourne Renegades, said following talks with Gayle over the past day the player "has acknowledged that his comments were out of line".

"The club would like to extend a formal apology to Mel McLaughlin. 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," he added.

However, some have come to Gayle’s defence, most notably Piers Morgan, whose tweet Gayle himself retweeted before the press conference apology.

James Wright, managing director of Red Agency and group COO of Havas Australia, said the overall media response to the incident has been over the top, when compared to the bigger issues around sexism in sport.

"The social media reaction has been far more balanced, condemning it yes but mostly stopping short of any claims of sexual harassment or representing 'everything that is wrong with males in sport'," he told PRWeek Asia.

"I don't consider what was said a joke either; it was demeaning and more than a little creepy - and no doubt Gayle will be appropriately dealt with." 

More interesting and not talked about enough, said Wright, was the initial reaction from McLaughlin's employer Channel 10, which tweeted the Gayle quote as a bit of fun with the hashtag "#smooth". 

The tweet was later deleted, before Channel 10 then apologised and defended its reporter, saying the comments were disrespectful.

"This came as social media immediately reacted and the Big Bash chiefs weighed in on the inappropriateness of the comments," Wright said.

"They [Channel 10] still then highlighted in their social media round-up today how Chris Gayle was trending nationally last night. I think they need to tighten up their corporate communications lines with their social ones."

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