Mike Tirico CHASKA, MN – OCTOBER 02: TV personality Mike Tirico looks on during singles matches of the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National Golf Club on October 2, 2016 in Chaska, Minnesota. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

NBC Sports anchor Mike Tirico caused a bit of a social-media stir this weekend with his comments in a New York Times profile about racial identity.

Despite drawing attention as one of the most prominent black broadcasters in sports, Tirico has always dodged comments about race. In a 1991 story in the Syracuse Post-Standard, he said he wasn’t sure if he was black, and since then he has rarely discussed his background at all.

In the Times‘ story, he brought up his Italian mother, then punted on the question of racial identity.

But these days, at a time when the nation is transfixed by a discussion of race relations, Tirico just doesn’t want to go there. He told me to say he was mixed race, and that was that.

“Why do I have to check any box?” he said. “If we live in a world where we’re not supposed to judge, why should anyone care about identifying?”

Besides, he added, “The race question in America is one that probably never produces a satisfactory answer for those who are asking the questions.”

The Times spun Tirico’s reticence about race as part of a general reluctance to draw attention to himself, but the comments about identity clearly rubbed people, including some of his former ESPN colleagues, the wrong way.

Of course, while some will see Tirico as distancing himself from black identity and (naively) believing himself immune to effects of anti-black racism just because he proclaims himself Italian, others will applaud him for refusing to define himself by race.

Regardless, it’s a tiny bit ironic that Tirico’s hesitance to discuss his racial identity has people breathlessly commenting on his racial identity.

[New York Times]

About Alex Putterman

Alex is a writer and editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing. He has written for The Atlantic, VICE Sports, MLB.com, SI.com and more. He is a proud alum of Northwestern University and The Daily Northwestern. You can find him on Twitter @AlexPutterman.