Famed soccer analyst Andy Gray grabbed headlines in the United Kingdom and abroad when he was fired by Sky Sports last week for sexist remarks made about a female linesman Sian Massey before a English Premier League match she was scheduled to help officiate.
Although Sky Sports’ decision wasn’t necessarily motivated by high-minded ideals about the place of women in professional sports, they undoubtedly made the right move.
Gray’s comments (see video above) compounded an off-air incident in December of 2010 where he asked fellow Sky Sports commentator Charlotte Jackson “Charlotte, can you tuck this down here for me?” after lifting up his belt buckle.
Yes, Sky Sports has absolutely done the right thing by getting Gray off the airwaves. It’s just a shame that the leading sports network in Britain and Ireland hasn’t taken a more philosophical approach to the dispute.
I believe that sports – like other aspects of culture, whether they be literature, music, films, whatever – have the power to create a more inclusive society by inspiring people to greater and greater heights.
Any kind of discrimination, even if it’s coming out of the mouth of a beloved figure like Gray, damages that inclusivity and limits the full potential of sports to motivate people.
After all, what kind of message is that sending? “You can grow up to be as successful as these stars, that is, unless you’re a woman. Then you can’t understand the offside rule.”
What’s more, including women and visible minorities strengthens soccer – or any sport for that matter.
If a linesman like Massey really is good enough to work in the EPL, then she should. If she’s replacing an official who was becoming a little old or too slow or was inconsistent in his calls, then her presence will improve the quality of the games.
Isn’t that what the EPL, Sky Sports and the fans of soccer want? Higher-quality matches?
I’m confident that Sky Sports dismissed Andy Gray to avoid a lawsuit and to improve the optics of his on camera gaffe. But that dismissal should have more positive effects in the long run than they had ever imagined.
Although Gray's dismissal does send the message that there is no room in professional soccer for discrimination, Sky Sports should have been even more decisive when they released him from the network and emphasized how important it is to them to create a more inclusive culture in sports.
Byron Parker cinched the Toronto Argonauts 24-20 win over the B.C. Lions with a late interception that he returned for a 41-yard touchdown. The victory gives the Boatmen a 3-1 record, tying them with the Montreal Alouettes at the top of the Canadian Football League’s Eastern Division.
This is big news for Toronto’s beleaguered franchise. They’ve been struggling financially since 2003 with past owners barely avoiding bankruptcy and needing bailouts to keep the club afloat. This tumult led to David Braley – also the owner of the Lions – buying the team before the start of the 2010 season.
Getting some wins and rejuvenating the Argonauts’ tattered image is crucial to reviving the most successful team in CFL history.
Here’s the thing – most people in Toronto don’t care.
Once upon a time this city was painted Double Blue every summer, but the Argonauts have long since ceded their hold on the sporting public to upstarts like the Toronto Blue Jays and, more recently, Toronto FC.
Attendance continues to suffer at the Boatmen’s home, the Rogers Centre, while apathy for Canadian football grows unabated in the nation’s largest city. As the Vancouver Sun’s Mike Beamish pointed out on Sunday, Toronto’s two home games this season – both wins – are the lowest announced home attendance figures for the Argos since 2003, when the team was on the verge of folding.
How did a once proud franchise end up like this?
There are many contributing factors including unstable ownership, an increasingly crowded market that has seven other professional sports teams and the cavernous Rogers Centre.
The biggest problem though, has been that the Boatmen have ignored the power of television.
It has been a long-standing Argonauts policy to black out home games on television in an attempt to bolster attendance numbers. This tactic may have worked for the Boatmen in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, but it’s cost them since then.
Television has only grown in stature, becoming a staple in practically every household, while ticket prices have risen, making it difficult for the average fan to go to several home games in a season. Because Torontonians are unable to watch the Argonauts on TV, they don't know who is on the team or what to expect from a CFL game. There's no draw for the casual fan.
As a result, an entire generation of Torontonians have grown up unfamiliar with the Canadian Football League. It’s an important cohort too. The so-called Echo generation, the children of the Baby Boomers, are the second largest generation in Canadian history.
Instead of being raised on Argonaut heroes of the 1980s and 1990s, most Torontonians in their 20s and 30s have fond memories of Blue Jays like Jesse Barfield, George Bell, Robbie Alomar and Joe Carter.
Sure, there were some highlights for the Boatmen like when they were purchased by John Candy and Wayne Gretzky. The Doug Flutie years also saw a brief bump in interest. But in both cases the fame was fleeting, easily overcome in a crowded, Leafs-centric city.
There’s no issue with the product: Canadian football is an exciting variant of the game. The issue is that the Argonauts are operating under the assumption that Toronto is like any other market in the country when it’s not.
If the Double Blue want to improve their market share, they need to recognize the power of television and make a concentrated effort to appeal to fans outside of the Rogers Centre. They need to win over the fans on their couches, not the ones in the stands.
With all the excitement of Sunday’s March Madness selections, the news that David Beckham tore his Achilles tendon in the closing minutes of AC Milan’s 1-0 win over Chievo Verona slipped between the cracks.
Although the 34-year-old had surgery to repair it almost immediately, orthopedic surgeon Sakari Orava estimates that it will take six months for him to recover.
This rules Beckham out for this summer’s World Cup in South Africa, and probably means the end of his illustrious, although somewhat disappointing, career as a member of England’s national squad.
Given Beckham’s age, the severity of the injury and the fact that he’d already been cut from the English side once, it’s highly unlikely that fans will ever see him in meaningful play for England again. The 2014 World Cup is simply too far away and even the 2012 European Cup squad would be tough for him to make.
Sure, he’ll probably recover and be able to play for the Los Angeles Galaxy again, but Major League Soccer is hardly a big enough stage for one of the most recognizable athletes in the world.
It’s a sad end for one of the best players in English history. Many felt Beckham would be the Chosen One to bring the World Cup back to Old Trafford, but now he’s missing out on his last chance to return the Three Lions to their former glory.
I’ll be the first to admit that Beckham wouldn’t have been a major contributor to the English cause. In fact, just last week I spotlighted him as a player whoI think is past his prime.
However, he’d still be useful as a role player.
Beckham would have undoubtedly helped England in free kick and penalty kick situations, as well as providing invaluable leadership off the pitch. After all, he’s made 115 international appearances, second only to goalkeeper Peter Shilton's 125 appearances for England from 1970-90.
This injury is the most disastrous moment in Beckham’s international career since 1998 when he was sent off in the crucial World Cup match against hated Argentina.
In any event, it’s heartbreaking that Beckham isn’t getting one last kick at the can, one last opportunity to prove himself as one of the best players England has ever produced. He and his fans worldwide deserved the chance to give him a proper send off with the Three Lions on his chest.