Tuesday, January 25, 2011

It's done: Sky Sports drops Andy Gray for dark-age comments

After his chauvinistic comments about women in football, pundit Andy Gray of Sky Sports has been sacked. Sky confirmed his termination today as it enters damage control to avoid backlash from all sides as Politicians, footballers and administrators, Support Groups, the Football League's Officials' Association among many have condemned the past-age comments of Gray and his Sky associate Richard Keys.

Gray, who has had a good reputation as a commentator for nearly two decades, was fired with Sky Sports stating "New evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour" had come to light, referring to footage of him suggesting Sky Sports Presenter Charlotte Jackson should help him tuck in his shirt. Keys has apparently apologised to lineswoman about whom the comments were made, Sian Massey, but Gray has not as the pair didn't want to duplicate their efforts to calm the storm they've created. Sky yesterday stood down the pair from telecasts as well as reporter Andy Burton who described Massey as "a bit of a looker".

No matter how the recordings were obtained, Sky has acted appropriately by dismissing Gray. Reporters, public servants, politicians, presenters and coaches - anyone who's likely to be exposed to the media - are all taught very early on that all microphones should be treated as if they are "on" at all times. By commenting within the reach of a mic, both Keys and Gray have ignored this first rule of being in the public eye. Rather than being "sold out" by someone with a grudge, through their own stupidity have they condemned themselves.

Gray, Keys and Burton probably meant no offense but, as always, that doesn't hold water as a defence. It was offensive to Massey and to the multitude of women keeping football clubs ticking over all around the world; after a quick straw poll, I've yet to find a woman not offended by these Old Boy comments. With such a large portion of their enormous market offended, it meant even in the unlikely event Sky wanted to keep Gray, it would have been extremely difficult.

Football has long been a domain ruled by "men's men" and has been afraid or unwilling to face issues that society in general is trying to tackle: FIFA head Sepp Blatter's comments about homosexual men abstaining from sex during the 2022 World Cup in Qatar was yet another in a long line of thoughtless backhanders dealt to minority groups. As has been the casual racism that persists in some leagues around the world, or the horrible tale of Justin Fashanu. But to suggest football maintain a set of it's own rules by which those involved are judged is ludicrous and must change. Those in football need to be held accountable to the standards by which the rest of us in normal society are judged.

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