Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Richard Keys apologizes, resigns
LONDON -- Sky Sports soccer anchorman Richard Keys resigned after 20 years with the British network, a day after his colleague was fired for sexist comments.
The scandal was sparked by off-air footage of Keys and Andy Gray making derogatory comments about lineswoman Sian Massey, former referee Wendy Toms and West Ham executive Karren Brady on Saturday.
New off-air studio footage emerged Tuesday of Keys making more disparaging remarks about women.
"I am deeply sorry for my remarks and the offense they have caused, it was wrong and should not have happened," Keys said in a statement released by Sky. "I have thought long and hard and reached the decision that it is time to move on."
Keys and Gray were reprimanded and removed from duty Monday for the derogatory comments. Keys telephoned Massey to apologize Monday, and publicly apologized Wednesday.
"It is disappointing that Richard's career at Sky should end in these circumstances," said Barney Francis, the managing director of Sky Sports. "However, Richard recognizes that his comments at the weekend were unacceptable and we note that he has made a full and public apology. We thank him for his time in helping make Sky Sports the success it is today."
The 53-year-old Keys teamed with Gray for Sky's coverage since 1992. He has also worked for Fox Sports in the United States and Middle East network Al-Jazeera.
"Going forward without Andy would have been almost impossible," Keys said in the statement. "I am and will remain proud of our work with football at Sky Sports and grateful to the many people who have worked with me. I wish Sky Sports continued success in the future."
Gray and Keys made disparaging remarks before Liverpool's Premier League match at Wolverhampton. The conversation between Keys in the stadium studio and Gray in the commentator's box was transmitted around Sky's production units. Within hours, an audio recording made its way to the offices of The Mail on Sunday newspaper, which published the account.
Noting that the 25-year-old Massey was working as a referee's assistant, Keys was heard saying: "Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her."
Gray responded: "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don't know the offside rule."
Massey is one of 853 female referees working in England.
Keys later turned his ire on West Ham's female vice chairman: "The game's gone mad. Did you hear charming Karren Brady this morning complaining about sexism? Do me a favor, love."
England captain Rio Ferdinand labeled the comments as "prehistoric views." Kelly Smith, a striker for the national women's team, said "there are still too many involved in the game who haven't changed and are still stuck in the dinosaur age."
More comprising footage emerged Monday night when an off-air studio clip was posted on YouTube showing Gray pointing to his crotch and making a suggestive comment toward Sky Sports colleague Charlotte Jackson.
Sky deemed it to be "unacceptable and offensive behavior" in announcing Gray's firing. Gray has hired a leading London law firm to fight his dismissal.
His only public comment has come from the law firm, stressing in a statement Wednesday that the "comments were made off-air to work colleagues, and were of course never intended to be broadcast."
Keys defended Gray on Wednesday during an hour-long appearance on TalkSport radio.
Responding to Ferdinand's criticism, Keys said during the live show: "Rio, are you telling me it doesn't happen in the Manchester United dressing room? Because my information is that it does."
Unnamed Sky employees have been quoted in newspapers claiming a culture of bullying at the network, making it an uncomfortable atmosphere for women.
Keys insisted that there "is not inherent sexism in Sky."
"What I think there is, is a sports room probably ... a little boisterous like any dressing room up and down the country," Keys said during the radio program. "It reflects what goes on in pubs and clubs."
Sky's injection of cash into English soccer since 1992 has helped clubs develop full-seating stadiums that are more family friendly.
Yet, one of Sky's flagship weekend shows, Soccer AM, still features a scantily clad model each weekend parading across the studio, dubbed a "Soccerette."