Brett Lee has been cited for inappropriate comments relating to the CEO of Cricket New South Wales (CNSW). On learning of the sacking of the CNSW coach, Anthony Stuart, Lee said that the CEO, David Gilbert, should have gone first.
Gilbert subsequently reported Lee’s comments to Cricket Australia (CA) saying he had no choice but to do so as there is a clause in all player contracts that they are not to make disparaging public comments.
Lee retorted, in his view, he has shown leadership by saying what many people were already thinking and that there is significant disharmony within CNSW.
Lee will appear before a CA Code of Behaviour Commissioner this week after he was charged by CA for allegedly breaching rule six for unbecoming behaviour and rule nine for detrimental public comment. It is clear that under the code of conduct, players must not bring the game into disrepute or be harmful to the interests of cricket.
Lee says he welcomes the opportunity for the hearing so he can express his views and the reasons why he said it. I think Lee has missed the point.
It matters little as to whether his comments are right or not, employees (which is what a player under contract is) cannot breach a term of their contract without consequence.
Sporting bodies are increasingly run as a business and, like a corporate organisation, corporate employees would not be able to make public comment about the management or leadership of their organisation without the risk of disciplinary action, including possible termination.
It is common for a contract to state an employee must act in the best interest of the organisation at all times. Further, appropriate avenues and often written policies and processes exist for genuine grievances.
Trial by media and/or trying to build a groundswell for public cynicism and pressure of the masses are not the way to go. Lee would surely be able to seek out an appropriate CA board member or executive to constructively provide his views, without the need for media involvement.
In my opinion, Lee has not shown leadership, he has shown poor judgement.
Does Lee not see the similarity to Quade Cooper’s negative public comment about the Wallabies and their “toxic environment”?
Lee’s circumstances are also not dissimilar to that of Simon Katich, who called a press conference in June 2011 to give his views on why he did not have his CA player contract renewed. While the public gave Katich some support, CA and Captain Michael Clarke closed ranks, as a corporate organisation would do, and did not partake in a public debate.
There’s no value for anyone to publicly play out a grievance – no one wins.
In Katich’s instance it certainly put the full stop on his career as an Australian player and provided no chance of a different outcome. Imagine if Nathan Sharpe had done the same when he was left out of the Wallabies 2011 Rugby World Cup squad.
As the constant calls for improved governance in sport continues and sporting organisations respond, players will see accountability cuts both ways. Lee may just be the next example of why the media should not be the forum for debate about leadership and management.