Irvin Was Wrong — And We’re Just As Wrong For Defending Him

By Stephen C. Smith Sr.
Updated: November 29, 2006

DALLAS,TX–I’m not a doctor (and I don’t play on TV) but, as much as I hate to disagree with a fellow columnist, there was plenty wrong with Michael Irvin’s comment in regard to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.

In stark contrast to Dr. Boyce Watkins’ view that The Playmaker was just stating the obvious, in truth, Irvin’s view is actually part of the same problem we just finished bashing Michael Richards for.

If that sounds ridiculous to you, then think what we would all be saying and writing if the host of ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick Show made the statement instead of his guest (Irvin) that day?

Not counting the Richards incident, people outside the Black community seem to understand that it’s 2006 and 1906. But sometimes, I wonder if we don’t need to check our own calendars and alarm clocks.

It’s one thing to tout the accomplishments and alleged inherent athletic talent of Black athletes, but then again, it’s quite another to readily give them a pass when it comes to what flies out of their mouths.

Racial slurs, stereotypes and the like will remain an issue as long as the people seeking protection from them (in this case, us) continue to justify and maintain their use within the community or anywhere else, for that matter.

“He doesn’t look like he’s that type of an athlete,” Irvin said of Romo. “But he is. He is, man. I don’t know if (there was) some brother down in that line somewhere, I don’t know who saw what or where, his great-great-great-great-grandma ran over in the ‘hood or something went down.”

How on earth can any of us really be so outraged over a statement made by others when the same statement is also a daily staple of some of our very own conversations?

There’s a term for that thought process – hypocrisy.

And that’s the commonality that Richards and Irvin share when it comes to this issue.

It was all well and good to bash old Cosmo Kramer for being a racist and boycott the purchase of Seinfeld DVDs, but for making a similar, albeit more subtle statement, we’re supposed to pat Irvin on the back for being astute?

I don’t think so.

In the words of Law & Order’s former assistant district attorney Benajmin Stone, “I’m responsible for my actions, not the color of my skin. And if it makes you feel good to call me a racist, fine.

“But if you want to know who’s really responsible for racism in today’s society, take a good look in the mirror.”

Hopefully, the day will come when we’re not staring at ourselves in that aforementioned mirror. But right now, that’s exactly what we’ll find — if we bother to look.

Stephen C. Smith Sr. is sports writer and staff columnist in Wichita Falls, Texas