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.