Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The sacking of Andy Gray

BBC News reports,

Sky has sacked football presenter Andy Gray after further allegations of his sexist behaviour came to light.

The pundit had already been disciplined for sexist comments made about female referee Sian Massey before Saturday's match between Wolves and Liverpool.


Sky Sports said it had sacked Gray "in response to new evidence of unacceptable and offensive behaviour".

Sky's statement continued: "The new evidence, relating to an off-air incident that took place in December, 2010, came to light after Andy Gray had already been subjected to disciplinary action for his comments of 22 January, 2011."

The new footage, which was recorded in December but only came to light on Monday night, appears to show Gray making a suggestive comment towards colleague Charlotte Jackson, who does not openly react, and he and Keys then burst out laughing.

First, I should declare that I don't follow football, and I don't pretend to understand the minds of those who do.

As a matter of principle, I support the right of a private company to sack anyone, at any time, for any reason. There are two sides to an employment contract, and neither party should be forced to continue in the agreement once it ceases to be mutually beneficial.

However, I'm somewhat concerned about the way this story has played out.

Businesses should decide for themselves what level of suggestive banter and disrespectful behaviour they allow in the office. They are the ones best placed to judge how much offence has been caused, and whether offensive characters do more good than harm (the benefits of their individual contribution, versus the harm they do to morale, staff retention, and recruitment). And as noted above, an employer should be free to take a stand on principle, acting on their own conscience, and sack anyone they feel has acted inappropriately.

In this case, it seems unlikely that managers at Sky were unaware of Andy Gray's character. It was only when the media got hold of the story that action was taken against him. Still, there could be legitimate business reasons for their decision: they might fear a customer backlash (protests and even boycotts), or the impact of a bad reputation on morale, staff retention, and recruitment.

But might there be something more to it? The government has the power to block News Corporation's buyout of BSkyB. And that same government is so committed to political correctness that they passed Harriet Harman's vile Equality Act. There needn't have been a phone call from a minister. News Corp knows what it needs to do in order to be considered a Socially Responsible Corporate Citizen.

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