Michael Irvin likens allegation at Super Bowl hotel to a lynching


Pro Football Hall of Famer Michael Irvin said he was sickened at being accused of misconduct by a female hotel worker in Phoenix during Super Bowl week and likened it to a lynching.

“This sickens me,” Irvin said Wednesday during a news conference in Dallas, addressing an incident that garnered significant media attention last month. “This sickens me because, in this great country, this takes me back to a time where a White woman would accuse a Black man of something and a bunch of guys that were above the law would run in the barn, throw a rope around his foot and drag him through the mud and hang him from a tree.”

The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver made his remarks the day after a court ordered Marriott International to turn over video and other materials in connection with Irvin’s $100 million lawsuit against Marriott over the Feb. 5 incident involving a female staffer at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown, where Irvin was staying as he made appearances in the lead-up to the Super Bowl. Irvin’s lawyer, Levi McCathern, said he was allowed to watch the video Tuesday but was not allowed to copy it and filed a court order Wednesday to obtain it.

“If I did something wrong, I’ll suffer the consequences,” Irvin said, “but if you did something wrong, you meaning them, then they should suffer the consequences.”

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Irvin has contended there was no inappropriate conduct between him and the woman during a conversation in the hotel lobby. But her complaint caused NFL Network and ESPN to cancel his television appearances, and Irvin responded with the lawsuit against Marriott and the woman, whose identity has been redacted from documents, for alleged defamation and tortious interference in a business relationship.

Irvin said he pointed out at the time that there were witnesses but essentially was told, “We don’t want to hear it.”

“How can I defend myself if I don’t even know what I’m defending myself against? They asked me, ‘Do you remember this girl you met in the lobby?’ I work and I live in hotels. I stay in hotels all year long,” he said Wednesday. “… I meet people every day walking in and out of a lobby. I couldn’t even tell you what she looked like. I don’t know who I’m talking about when I’m talking about [how] I’m supposed to have done something. It just blows my mind that in 2023 we’re still dragging and hanging brothers by a tree. It blows my mind that I have no opportunity to defend — I don’t even know what I’m defending.”

McCathern said the incident lasted “about a minute and a half,” adding: “When you first see the video, Michael is outside taking pictures and the accuser is behind the front desk. The accuser walks from behind the front desk and is approaching Michael and the group.”

The moment Irvin meets the accuser is not visible on the tape because a pole is in the way, McCathern said. “They first greet each other,” he said. “They shake hands. They touched four times. He shakes her hand at the beginning, and at the end he touches her elbow. And one time when he was laughing, he … touches [her] other elbow.”

Bryn Davis and Phil Watkins, two witnesses to the incident, described during the news conference what they observed, as they did in interviews last month with TMZ. On Wednesday, Irvin grew emotional as he listened to Davis speak. The men described meeting Irvin in a bar off the lobby and Irvin offering to pose for a photo with them. They stepped outside the crowded bar, and the employee approached.

Watkins, who is from Australia and said he is not a football fan, said “there was nothing untoward” and said there were “a few handshakes and laughter” and called the conversation “very jovial” before Irvin headed to the elevator.

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Marriott has declined media requests for comment, but one court document in the lawsuit, filed in Collin County, Tex., accused Irvin of making “harassing and inappropriate comments” toward the employee. Marriott contends it does not own the Phoenix property, which is one of many in its portfolio that are lessees under the corporate name.

Last week, U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant granted Irvin’s request for expedited discovery and set a Tuesday deadline for Marriott to provide Irvin’s legal team with “any and all video recordings, written reports, and/or witness statements gathered” that pertain to Irvin’s February visit to the hotel.

Irvin’s lawsuit states that after he returned to his room and went to sleep, he was awakened by members of the hotel’s security team, who told him he had to leave the hotel after a hotel employee told a manager that Irvin had acted improperly toward her. Later in the week, his scheduled TV appearances were canceled.

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