The PFT Rumor Mill has some new news/comments up about Michael Irvin's odd comments. They link to a column by Chris Zelkovich of the Toronto Star. He has one great quote:
"Joke or not, by my count, that's offensive to blacks, whites, grandmothers and humanity in general."
There's one area in which I certainly disagree with Zelkovich though:
"There are lines that simply should not be crossed.
That doesn't mean there should be censorship, but all broadcasters should be told in no uncertain terms that there are certain areas that should be given a wide berth.
Race and ethnicity have to be at the top of that list."
Is Zelkovich suggesting that race and ethnicity should be ingored from the national dialogue on sports? If so, that is an absurd way to strive for racial equality; stopping discussion of issues is no way to actually deal with issues.
There's also a link to a column by Jay Posner of the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Here I think Posner slips into an easy fallacy:
"Irvin was laughing while he was talking, but ask yourself this: What would the reaction have been if Steve Young had made those comments? Why is this any different?"
That's like asking if Borat's comedy about anti-semitism would be received differently if Sasha Baron Cohen weren't Jewish. If you are a member of a particular group, you have a lot more leeway when making pushing-the-envelope jokes or comments involving that group. That's been pretty widely accepted, and for the most part isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Michael Irvin was one of my favorite football players. I agree with most people on the internet that he is a horrible analyst. He yells, he doesn't express ideas clearly (though I'm an English teacher, I'm not an English snob; I don't demand that he use the Queen's English, but his use of language should be coherent), and he doesn't bring any real insight of interest. But I don't think he should be fired for making an odd comment about race. For one thing, allowing members of minority groups free expression to make odd commments about race is one of the best ways we have to advance goals of racial understanding and equality.