West Indies batsman Chris Gayle says he was joking when he asked an Australian reporter out during a live TV broadcast, and said he was sorry if she was offended by the widely-condemned remarks. Gayle had just finished his innings for the Melbourne Renegades in a nationally televised Twenty20 match in Hobart on Monday (4 January) when he was approached for an interview by Channel 10 reporter Melanie McLaughlin.
After suggesting that he had played well in order to get an interview with McLaughlin, the big-hitting batsman proceeded to direct personal comments towards her.
"To see your eyes for the first time is nice," the 36-year-old said. "Hopefully we can have a drink afterwards. Don't blush baby."
The comments were immediately condemned by the Big Bash League and Channel 10, who said McLaughlin had been angered and upset by the encounter. Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland told reporters on Tuesday 5 January the comments were "out of line", and sanctions against Gayle were a possibility once the appropriate processes had been completed. Gayle, speaking to reporters on his return to Melbourne later in the day, said a "simple joke" had been "blown out of proportion".
"There wasn't anything meant to be disrespectful or offended (sic) to Mel and if she felt that way, then, 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, entertainment, things get out of proportion. You know, but these things do happen. It wasn't any harm done and like I said, I will leave it at that. I'm sorry for that and we'll just have to move on, simple," Gayle said.
Growing increasingly irritable with journalists' questioning, Gayle said he had not had a chance to speak with the reporter and terminated the interview when asked why McLaughlin should be subjected to such comments at work.
"Did she tell you she was uncomfortable? She told you that?" Gayle asked Fox Sports reporter Neroli Meadows. "She didn't tell me but she told her boss that she was uncomfortable," was the reply. Gayle said: "Have a good day," and walked away. Meadows subsequently called Gayle a 'repeat offender' and said "it's not funny".
Sutherland said the comments were a "pretty significant mis-hit" by Gayle and certainly no laughing matter.
"You know, anyone that 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 and that just goes to the point about how inappropriate and just not cool that that is," he told reporters at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG).
Sutherland, who offered Cricket Australia's full support to McLaughlin, said it was not up to him to decide whether the comments constituted sexual harassment.