Sunderland supremo David Moyes will probably readily admit that suggesting that the BBC reporter Vicki Sparks would “get a slap, even though you’re a woman” and that she should be “careful” the next time she visited didn’t represent his finest moment in life, never mind sport. From what I can tell, he spoke in jest, to the extent that Ms Sparks laughed at the “slap” bit but it was an error of judgement from a man with an otherwise decent reputation. I think he is entitled to the benefit of the doubt.
Not only has Moyes apologised, Ms Sparks has accepted it without qualification. And his statement that he “deeply regrets” his comments rings totally true. This is not some half-witted lamebrain of a man: Moyes is one of the more thoughtful football people. I happen to think he is due another chance.
And he is not the first football manager to bait or even threaten interviewers and journalists. Sir Alex Ferguson did it all the time, Jose Mourinho has turned it into an art form. Moyes himself has been known to be crotchety when caught at a bad time. Perhaps this incident might affect all their behaviours?
As a man, I am trying to see it from a woman’s point of view. I have heard the term “give him a slap” used in a non violent, humorous context for years. I have honestly never associated it with a direct threat of violence, more as a response to, say, a stupid action or comment. I have also usually heard it in a safe environment, too. It’s an old saying which says one thing but actually means another. I have had it said to me by plenty of people over the years. It was never threatening.
The FA are bound to investigate which should take less than a minute since the entire story is out there. I would hope that, at the very worst, Moyes is given a friendly warning to think more sensitively about what he says in future. He knows that already. There is no need for a stinging punishment, a fine, a ban or even his sacking from Sunderland, all of which would be OTT.
We all have a duty to be careful what we say but then again we should not live in constant fear of being pilloried for putting a word out of place. Moyes was not advocating violence towards women or anyone else; he was using a turn of phrase that has been part of our vocabulary for years. Calling for an extreme punishment is even more daft than what Moyes said. Violence no, perspective yes.