MICHAEL MOYNIHAN: Chris Gayle storm raises big issues for women in sport

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with Aoife Lane of the Women’s Gaelic Players Association for a chat in her office in Waterford IT. 

As anticipated, the conversation ranged hither and yon, and you’ll see the full results of that chat soon enough in the paper — Lane’s thoughts on the camogie coin toss, the progress made by the WGPA, and other topics.

But in the course of our conversation, we also touched on something quite recent — the clowning around by cricket neanderthal Chris Gayle, when he embarrassed a female journalist live on air.

What interested me was the dual nature of something like that incident — it happens in sport and is filed under banter (witness the support Gayle got from some deep thinkers on social media), and yet it also has an existence in the real world, a plane of activity in which sports banter is simultaneously a recognised mode of expression and something which makes grown adults want to cover their eyes with shame for their fellow man.

I was interested in Lane’s take on it, and whether, in her role with the WGPA, she took more notice of such incidents. She made a telling point about the wider context, in which the cricket genius’s behaviour is an outlier among general attitudes.

“You’re a lot more sensitive to it,” she told me. “Take what Anna Geary is doing, she’s recognised but that’s because she’s competent. It’s not about gender, or it shouldn’t be, and the difference for me is that in education and in work, it isn’t an issue. Those are places where competence isn’t defined by gender, but it is an issue in sport.

“Here in WIT it’s just about doing your job, but in sport, it’s almost a defining part of whether you’re asked a question in the first place, and how you’re asked — whether you’re a man or a woman rather than your competence.

“The cricketer is an extreme example, and it should be highlighted, but the bigger picture there is that people disrespect each other all the time. We’re still in a position where we have to highlight those things, though; if we brush those things under the carpet, nothing changes.”

As I mentioned, we dealt with specific WGPA matters as well as issues in a general sense, as mentioned above; it’s interesting, though, that women involved in sport appear to have to maintain a policy position on women’s role globally within sport, as well as formulating opinions and outlooks on matters referring to their own specific sport.

In addition, Lane’s simple point about whether people are even asked about sports depending on their gender can push you, gentle reader, to a simple thought experiment: if you’re a man, when did you last ask a woman for her opinion on a sporting matter?

If you’re a woman, when were you last asked for your opinion on same?

Sacked for telling some harsh truths

What is going on in Scotland?

I ask because even here, in a bunker where the light from the Scottish “Premier” League never shines, news has reached us of extraordinary events regarding a couple of journalists and Rangers FC. Graham Spiers wrote a piece last year in The Herald questioning whether the club really wanted to tackle bigoted chanting; Rangers then put pressure on the newspaper — ‘severe pressure’, in Spiers’ words — and it duly apologised to the club. Only a couple of days ago, then, Angela Haggerty, another columnist with the paper, tweeted her support for Spiers: 

She was subsequently sacked.

Haggerty spoke to the Press Gazette about her sacking: “I’m very troubled by the decision by the Herald editor-in-chief to discontinue my column after expressing support for a fellow journalist being targeted by sustained abuse online. This has chilling implications for freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Having been targeted by Rangers-related groups since editing a book about the club’s financial collapse in 2012, I have been under significant harassment. This has led to police involvement on several occasions, a six-month prison sentence for one man and several attempts to have me fired from jobs.”

I share this not so much to elicit a response from readers in our usual constituency, many of whom would hardly be sympathetic to Rangers (or journalists, maybe). The point about sports organisations intimidating and bullying media outlets may not be lost on you, though, as that has implications for you as a media consumer.

One more point— perhaps it’s because I’ve been reading So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson that I’ve had an eye for campaigns of harassment and vilification such as those pursued against Haggerty, but to anyone with even a passing interest in social media the misogyny directed against the columnist is both wearyingly familiar and no less worrying because of that.

Get an Eagle at the Old Head? Glenn entered the Frey on the fairways too

Last week I mentioned in passing that the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles had a sporting connection — in the movie Jerry Maguire he played an NFL coach hounded by Tom Cruise to improve the contract Maguire/Cruise’s agent (name - Rod Tidwell, remember?).

A reader has been in touch, however, to move Frey’s sporting interests into the real world, informing me that the musician was not just a big golf fan, but visited the course at the Old Head of Kinsale, where he showed a keen grasp of local politics by paying due homage to Rory Gallagher’s ability on the guitar.

Thanks to Paddy Brassil for getting in touch, and outing the man who sang You Belong To The City as also belonging to the fairways.

Bookies are getting too cosy with sport

Not very random things I picked up on during the week, no. 812.

Is there any end to the gambling talk on radio?

I only ask because it seems that every time I got into the car on my travels there was some or other sports show coming over the radio which was sponsored, wholly or in part, by a betting company.

Rolling in from Kilmallock last Saturday — where it snowed, by the way, snowed!— the sports radio talk was how the odds would be affected for Cheltenham by Saturday’s events, how would punters view this prospect, how that prospect would now figure in the betting and so on.

I’m aware that the betting industry has a vested interest in the horse racing industry, but the constant bombardment... I’m all for people following what they like, but is this whole arrangement a little too cosy? This is something I’ll return to at a later date.

Feel free to share your views.


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