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.
Tirico's quotes here…I mean…I'm…um…I don't…I um…I…
Oh nevermind. Just do the gif with the shocked face dude. https://t.co/QJvuXV24wt
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) July 16, 2017
ok, ONE question the tirico profile left me with…
generally, what's it like to be *literally* the ONE person alive to believe something?
— El Flaco (@bomani_jones) July 17, 2017
As a noted sports media Mexican, I want nothing more than to moderate and televise a discussion about race through the prism of Mike Tirico
— Pablo S. Torre (@PabloTorre) July 16, 2017
Also, lol, ain't nobody been curious about this dude's racial identity. Mike Tirico ain't Jennifer Beals. https://t.co/bnQdDUMMYE
— Joel D. Anderson (@byjoelanderson) July 16, 2017
Does Tirico REALLY think that if blackness is a box that ppl don't look at his black ass with his black ass features and put him in it?? pic.twitter.com/ff6gtPqT2I
— Khal Draghoe (@brownandbella) July 16, 2017
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.