Michael Irvin made his FS1 debut with Skip Bayless on Undisputed this week, and it reminded Stephen A. Smith what he’s missing on First Take.
Irvin’s Undisputed debut was also his first TV appearance since the Pro Football Hall of Famer was accused of sexual misconduct earlier this year at a hotel during Super Bowl week. Smith has maintained he wanted Irvin back on First Take this NFL season, despite the accusations, and he reiterated that sentiment after watching the relaunch of Undisputed.
“I think it’s a travesty what happened to Michael Irvin over the last few months,” Smith said on his podcast. “There was a woman, allegedly, supposedly, whether it was her or the company itself, that accused him of saying something inappropriate or whatever the case may be. The NFL, meaning the NFL Network, sent Michael Irvin home from the Super Bowl. Pulled him from their coverage.”
“That was bad enough, but for him have an accusation levied against him that ultimately jeopardized his career? And to this day all we’ve seen is a 45-second video of him conversing with a young lady in the lobby and then walking away. And she walked away. We have no audio. We have no accusations that extend beyond that specific experience. For him to be off the airwaves since February, to be off the airwaves that long and to have his job in jeopardy, his future in jeopardy, is a travesty.”
In February, NFL Network suspended Irvin following the alleged sexual misconduct that occurred at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Phoenix a few days before the Super Bowl. It wasn’t just NFL Network that banished him, Irvin also did not make another appearance on ESPN after the alleged encounter, despite being scheduled to join First Take from the site of Super Bowl LVII.
“I have to admit to you as a Black man that it was incredibly scary,” Smith continued. “And it’s something that I articulated to some folks in positions of power at various networks who will remain nameless. When I came to the defense of Michael Irvin, I hesitated because again we didn’t have all the facts. And I said, ‘Okay well let’s see it.’
“But when week after week and month after month went by and not a damn piece of evidence came forward, I said, wait a minute, somebody who doesn’t happen to be Black, who is a female gets to stand before a Black man for 45 seconds, nobody hears what they said to one another. He didn’t touch her other than to shake her hand if that. And they walked away from each other, and that’s all it takes for this man to lose his career? What the hell does that say about the rest of us?”
Irvin has continued to push back on the accusations, even holding a press conference to release video of the encounter, a 45-second clip that depicts a brief interaction with his accuser. In the immediacy of being suspended by NFL Network, however, Irvin admitted he did not remember the alleged encounter “because I had a few drinks.” But without any further evidence against Irvin in recent months, Skip Bayless and FS1 determined the “Playmaker” deserved a chance at returning to television, a verdict Smith wishes ESPN reached first.