The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver insisted the security tape proves his innocence, as he denied making a lewd comment to the hotel employee last month.
National Football League Hall of Famer Michael Irvin on Tuesday fought back against accusations that he sexually harassed a hotel employee in Arizona last month by releasing video footage of their interaction.
The former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, who was staying at the Marriott Renaissance Phoenix Hotel & Spa to cover Super Bowl LVII for the NFL Network when the alleged encounter took place, held a press conference in Dallas with his lawyers during which they shared the security video. He’s been accused of asking the woman if she “knew anything about having a â€˜big Black man inside of [her].'” “I don’t speak like that. I’ve never spoken like that,” Irvin told the reporters assembled before him. “I totally deny saying that.”
Irvin and his team claimed the footage, which appears to depict a casual exchange, exonerates him of any wrongdoing. But, as the video has no sound, it is impossible to know exactly what was said. Irvin was not accused of physically assaulting the woman.
What the video does show is Irvin and the woman chatting, with Irvin appearing to twice touch her arm. The woman can be seen taking a step back at one point, and clasping her hands behind her back at another. Afterwards, Irvin attorney Levi McCathern pointed out, a male Marriott employee who had been watching the woman and Irvin can be seen in the video, seemingly upset about something. He takes the woman’s arm and walks off with her, which McCathern described on Tuesday as “aggressive.”
Irvin checked into the Marriott property on Feb. 5, and went out for dinner and drinks, according to the hotel chain’s version of events. When he returned later, Irvin “appeared to be visibly intoxicated in the Hotel bar, the Dust Cutter,” Marriott said in a court filing. He then approached the bar employee in question, complimented her on her looks, and made his lewd proposal, the filing states.
It alleges Irvin made the woman uncomfortable by touching her arm, and that the two other hotel employees noticed a “look of concern” on her face. Before the woman left, Irvin told her he’d come back and find her when she wasn’t working, according to the Marriott filing.
“She bad, She bad, I want to hit that,” Irvin said, slapping himself in the face and saying to himself, “Keep it together, Mike,” according to one of the woman’s colleagues cited in the filing.
In the video presented on Tuesday, Irvin can be seen taking a selfie with another hotel employee shortly after watching the woman walk away.
The woman complained to hotel management, and a Marriott operations director reached out to their point of contact at the NFL, as the league had directed the chain to do in instances of alleged misconduct. The NFL moved Irvin to a different hotel and ultimately dropped him from the upcoming Super Bowl broadcast.
On Feb. 9, Irvin filed a $100 million lawsuit against Marriott and “Jane Doe,” claiming they had destroyed his television career over a “friendly interaction that ended with a polite handshake.” Marriott, for its part, has laid the blame squarely on Irvin, arguing in court that he “made unwelcome sexual advances against a female employeeâ€¦ who did not know who Irvin was and who, in reporting his despicable behavior, sought nothing more than to be free from further harassment.”
“Like I’m going to hunt her down, kidnap somebody, kill somebody?” Irvin said on Tuesday.
Also on Tuesday, Irvin withdrew his lawsuit, which was originally filed in state and federal courts in Texas. He then refiled in Maricopa County, Arizona, where the Marriott Renaissance Phoenix is located. At the press conference, Irvin whose lawyers have been pressing Marriott in court to get access to a copy of the security video said he was “so thankful for this video.” Without it, he continued, “I don’t know where this would have gone.”
McCathern noted on Tuesday that one of the woman’s male coworkers seen in the video appeared to subsequently get upset with the woman for speaking to Irvin. The woman herself, according to McCathern, was “not offended” by anything Irvin said. There was no sexual assault, harassment, or misconduct of any kind, McCathern insisted.
Last week, Irvin compared the allegations against him to a Jim Crow-style lynching. No criminal charges have been filed against Irvin.
“Public figures like Michael Irvin must prove not only that Marriott employees lied about him but further that the employees acted with â€˜actual malice,'” Lewis told The Daily Beast. “Irvin has the formidable task of proving that the employees knew they were saying false things or acted with reckless disregard for the truth.”
This, said Lewis, is a difficult standard to meet and the reason why it is uncommon for high-profile figures to bring defamation lawsuits. Further, courts in Arizona, where Irvin will now take on Marriott, “require â€˜clear and convincing’ evidence, more than a mere preponderance, of proof,” Lewis explained.
A Marriott spokesperson on Tuesday declined to comment.