One of the stranger media stories this year has revolved around Michael Irvin. Irvin was pulled off of NFL Network’s Super Bowl coverage early in that week in February following an incident at the Marriott he was staying at in Arizona, and has been suspended from that network since. But that led to no criminal charges, to Irvin filing a $100 million defamation lawsuit against Marriott, to a back-and-forth battle over hotel surveillance footage, to Irvin not making his usual appearances on ESPN, and to him eventually joining Skip Bayless on Fox’s new-look Undisputed.
And now, just in time for NFLN’s first NFL Gameday Morning of the 2023 season Sunday, Irvin is back after settling his lawsuit against Marriott. Here’s how NFL Gameday Morning began Sunday, including host Rich Eisen saying “I’ve got my two Hall of Famers at the end of the set, Kurt Warner, and look, Michael Irvin, good to see you, sir,” Irvin saying “Good to be back,” and Eisen saying “Good to see all four of us together.”
Michael Irvin returned to NFL Network's NFL GameDay Morning Sunday after settling his defamation lawsuit against Marriott. "Good to be back." pic.twitter.com/MxtXcAK6Fi
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) September 10, 2023
On that lawsuit settlement, Michael Gehlken of The Dallas Morning News broke that news early Sunday morning. Here’s more from Gehlken’s piece:
Former Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin reached a settlement with Marriott in his $100 million defamation lawsuit against the hotel chain, a person familiar with the situation told The Dallas Morning News, and he appeared on NFL Network on Sunday morning for the first time since a woman accused him in February of making lewd comments in an Arizona hotel lobby.
NFL Media, the entity that manages NFL Network, lifted its indefinite suspension of Irvin. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee’s hiatus from the network lasted more than seven months, as Irvin last worked Opening Night for the Super Bowl on Feb. 6 in Phoenix.
“Michael Irvin has been reinstated and will be a part of NFL Network’s coverage of the 2023 season,” Alex Riethmiller, NFL Media vice president of communication, said in a statement.
Settlement terms between Irvin and Marriott were not disclosed.
As Mike Florio writes at ProFootballTalk, it seems like the NFL required Irvin to settle this lawsuit before bringing him back on air, as that litigation had plenty of impacts for the league:
It’s not a coincidence. The NFL would have found itself neck deep in the litigation, given that Marriott claimed it passed the complaint along to the NFL pursuant to the league’s express instructions. If the Irvin case had proceeded, the league eventually would have been asked to produce documents and potentially to make witnesses available for testimony as to what the league did or didn’t do when investigating the complaint and deciding to suspend Irvin.
This means that Irvin’s protracted suspension likely had less to do with the Personal Conduct Policy than the NFL’s desire to avoid being involved in the case between Irvin and Marriott.
The Irvin situation saw a lot of twists and turns. The initial reports were only of an unspecified complaint from a woman, and Irvin quickly went on the radio and said he did nothing wrong, but both NFLN and ESPN declined to feature him during Super Bowl week. He then filed that $100 million lawsuit three days after the initial incident, before the Super Bowl, and that led to back-and-forth claims.
Irvin’s legal team lobbied for Marriott to release the surveillance video of the incident, getting two rulings in their favor. He also came out with bold claims against the company, comparing their treatment of him to “hanging brothers by a tree.” But before releasing that video, Marriott released a statement in response to those remarks from Irvin and his counsel, detailing the woman (a hotel employee)’s vulgar claims of what Irvin said to her and saying ” counsel provided a self-serving, inaccurate summary of the video footage Marriott produced.” Irvin’s team then released the video, which showed him in conversation with the woman for around a minute and touching her elbow twice.
Since then, the main Irvin developments have been NFL Media saying he “remains suspended” in April and not featuring him in their 2023 lineup earlier this week. ESPN also never brought Irvin back on the air despite Stephen A. Smith publicly lobbying for him on multiple occasions. But Fox announced late in August they’d brought Irvin in as a rotating panelist for Undisputed, and he appeared on that newly-revamped show earlier this week. And now he’s back on NFLN as well.