Perhaps it’s easier for an economist to understand that the view that the world has of you as a country or people is the sum of all the opinions that exist. Whether your national profile is positive or negative, high or low, depends on what you and your fellows do, and how you are portrayed and perceived. I look at the Chris Gayle ‘incident’ in that light, along with my views on what is acceptable behaviour. Brand Jamaica (at least), and ‘brand cricket’, and ‘brand sport’, and ‘brand man’ have been harmed by his actions. Whatever his exploits with a cricket bat, then and before, they went quickly onto the back burner because he couldn’t control himself of the cricket field.

Many public entertainers–and I include athletes in that bag–have a distorted view of public opinion, often shaped by the reactions people have to their prowess and success. (It’s not just the ‘greats’ who act out of line, but also many of those who crave public attention, and may feel unhappy with less of it. Look carefully at the behaviour of those in the middle or bottom, and what they do to try to raise their public worth.)

I don’t have any problem casting Mr. Gayle’s behaviour with a female reporter, Mel McLaughlin, as inappropriate.GAYLE_SEXISM_3540473bIt’s perhaps easier if your children are girls, but it’s not that hard a call, in my mind, in any situation. Many want to jump up and throw back that others did similar things and got little public blow back. Again, being an economist, that doesn’t make any difference: the world is not static, and reactions at a given time are a reflection of what the world thinks at that time. It may be hard to understand, and the reactions may not be constant at any time or any place. Sadly, too, the public may be fickle and give some more latitude because they ‘like’ someone more than they ‘like’ the latest perpetrator of an act. I say that to deal with Maria Sharapova at a press conference focussing on the ‘form’ of a mail reporter, and seemingly getting no public uproar. Who knows, for sure? Maybe, the world was so tired of men doing this sort of thing that they saw a woman doing it as simple catch-up. I’m not going to analyse what I see as using a wrong to justify a wrong. My view on the incidents are the same: they are both wrong.

Many may wish to see the hand of racism at play, in Mr. Gayle’s case. Maybe, it is, but if so, it would be naive to think the world is neutral. Or, maybe, someone thought that by being a ‘megastar’ the base dislike some have of particular races would disappear. Hello! Maybe, people don’t watch enough of what’s going on to see that ‘greatness’ counts for nothing in the face of some nasty attitudes. If racism is in play, then one also has to explain why a supposedly racist group would want to employ someone of a race they detest. It can be rationalized in terms of making more money (we saw it with an NBA franchise), even if in doing so one uses people one despises. It’s a hard piece of logic, but try it.

Some see issues of sexual harassment in the workplace and that is a serious concern. It’s clear that many public figures tread a fine line when it comes to what is the workplace, but it’s also the case that they should understand when those involved in making their public image are doing their jobs and just want to get on with that and then move on to other things. (If Mr. Gayle really wanted to have a date, it would not have been hard to do off-camera, or at another time. Maybe, he got caught up in the hype of public proposals. Who knows?)

Mr. Gayle wants us to lighten up because he did not mean any harm and was just trying to make a joke. Well, the test of humour is whether it makes people laugh. Also, whether you mean harm or not, when the object of your intention is offended, your intention is irrelevant. Mr. Gayle apologized and that was accepted. He made light of his apology on social media, so will now also have to deal with the swirl about his real sincerity.

Mr. Gayle was fined A$10000 (about 5000 pounds; US$7500) for his behaviour. It may seem light, given his contract for the games he has to play. But, as with many things, that may just be the first of several hits he has to weather. Let’s see how many promoters and sponsors want to be associated with his ‘image’ going forward.

 

 

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