I will be using a word regularly throughout this blog that I have come to despise due to its incessant and at times, rather flippant use but ‘banter’ is frustratingly the best way to describe behaviour without referring to my much-loved 19th century lexicon of ‘tomfoolery’ or ‘horseplay’. There have been a number of incidents leaked in the last couple of years where people in high places have been caught sayings things they shouldn’t and the debate rages on whether such remarks are merely ‘banter’ or something more sinister.
The notorious example of messrs Keys and Gray, who were revealed as little more than male chauvinists thanks to their female-degrading remarks. Then take Richard Scudamore, the Chief Executive of the Premier League since 1999, who was caught sending work emails, again not too complimentary of the fairer sex. All these people are or were in high-profile positions and were vilified for their actions which leads me to ask whether they were inexcusable actions which are fully unacceptable or were they merely engaging in banter and their only error was to not be more discreet?
This is clearly an issue which will evoke strong emotions from people largely because there is such a fine line of what is perceived as acceptable and what is not. Take Richard Keys and Andy Gray, their comments; however they are spun, are not any worse than you would hear across pubs and male changing rooms up and down the country. They were thought wholly unprofessional; extremely naïve and showed incredibly poor judgement in attempting to discuss the relative attractiveness of females in the confines of their work place. The two have of course found themselves other jobs on Al Jazeera and TalkSport after their incredulous sacking from Sky but will their reputation ever fully recover? Google’s top search for Richard Keys is ‘banter’ and Andy Gray’s is ‘sacked’, case closed.
Richard Scudamore managed to keep his job, despite his role coming under pressure after his lewd e-mails were leaked. It came at an unfortunate time for the man when he was seen as a real advocate for encouraging greater numbers of women in to football and was marred by the antithesis of his, shall we say ‘old-fashioned’ expression towards women, in which he thought was a private domain. Many of Scudamore’s remarks where he referenced ‘irrational women’, were not anything tremendously out of the ordinary in terms of the opinions of many men but given his position of power, his public stance on women in the game and the arena of his views, it was a piece of ill judgement. Again, his top two google searches preceding his name are ‘emails’ and ‘sexist’ the people of the internet have spoken.
All of these people, when you take into account their positions and relative experience should know better and one slip of the tongue, or click of the mouse could have cost them their careers. The question remains, where do you draw the line between ‘a bit of banter’ and a PR disaster?