West Indies batsman Chris Gayle has offered an apology to Ten Sports reporter Melanie McLaughlin after asking out the Australian journalist during a pitch-side interview during a Big Bash League (BBL) match. The 36-year-old has been fined $10,000 [£4,888] by his franchise Melbourne Renegades following the incident.
Gayle came under fire from Cricket Australia chief James Sutherland and BBL manager Anthony Everard for the comments, which came during a live interview broadcast, after the Jamaican-born player scored 41 from 15 balls to help the Renegades beat the Holbart Hurricanes by five wickets. After being dismissed, Gayle was quizzed on the innings by McLaughlin, during which he complimented her eyes and asked her out on a date.
"I just wanted to have an interview with you as well, to see your eyes for the first time is nice," he said. "Hopefully we win this game and we can have a drink afterwards. Don't blush, baby." A visibly uncomfortable McLaughlin responded: "I'm not blushing."
After coming in for criticism on Twitter from former England all-rounder and current Ten Sports commentator Andrew Flintoff, Gayle has made a grovelling apology to McLaughlin and says he regrets the comments. "A lot of things have flared up from a simple comment, a joke on air and it has gone out of proportion," Gayle said. "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, entertainment thing gets out of proportion but these things do happen. There wasn't any harm done and I will leave it at that. I am sorry for that and we just have to move on. I didn't have the chance [to speak to Mel]. I tried to reach her but it didn't happen."
McLaughlin, 36, is an established Ten Sports, reporter having led the network's coverage of the Big Bash since 2013. Speaking to the channel on the episode, she admitted Gayle's response to a question regarding his performance was "disappointing". "I'm a little bit uncomfortable," she conceded. "I'm not really used to being in the centre of any sort of story and this one certainly escalated, but I'm okay.
"It was certainly unexpected. It was obviously a little disappointing because he had done so well out there with the bat. He'd scored 41 off 15 balls, smashing sixes and I was really excited to talk to him about that. I would have much preferred to be talking about that instead."
There is no indication that Gayle will be dropped from the team for the Renegades' next match against the Sydney Stars on 9 January, but the player has been reprimanded for his actions. The Renegades have fined Gayle and chief executive Stuart Coventry has slammed the comments of the opener.
"Chris's comments were completely inappropriate and disrespectful," Coventry said. "There is simply no place for these type of comments at the Melbourne Renegades. The club would like to extend a formal apology to Mel McLaughlin. 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.
"We've had several discussions with Chris over the past day and he has acknowledged that his comments were out of line. We would also like to formally apologise to our members, supporters and the wider public for offence caused. The club is based on values of respect towards every member of the community."
Though the reaction to Gayle's behaviour has been largely negative, US Mail Online editor Piers Morgan – a well known cricket fan – has backed the left-hander over the reception to the episode. However, speaking to Melbourne radio station 3AW, Fox Sports reporter Neroli Meadows said the reaction to Gayle's actions must change.
"He's a repeat offender and he does it purely to humiliate that person in that public arena," Meadows said, according to The Guardian. "He does it constantly and he has done it over a number of years. You can say that Chris Gayle is never going to change – that's fine, and he probably won't. But what should change is the reaction to what Chris Gayle does. It's not funny. It's just not."