Remembering NFL Legend Irvin Cross

Luca Boccalato, Staff Writer

Irvin Cross, a National Football League Pro Bowl defensive back for two teams, and first-ever Black full-time analyst for a network television sports show, passed away on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.

He died due to ischemic cardiomyopathy, a heart disease. He also battled with dementia for years, which he believed stemmed from the concussions he endured during his time playing football. Cross arranged to donate his brain to the Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center. 

In 1971, after nine years with the Philadelphia Eagles and five with the St. Louis Rams, Cross joined the CBS broadcasting team as a part-time game analyst. Four years later, in 1975, CBS hired Cross to join the cast of their pregame show “The NFL Today,” which sparked the beginning of his 15-year run as a high profile commentator. Cross, along with Brent Musburger and Phyllis George and, a year later, Brett Snyder previewed and analyzed the day’s upcoming games, giving their predictions, betting lines, and halftime score updates. 

The cast was unlike any other NFL game day television program. With Cross in a job that no Black man had held previously and George, a former Miss America who became one of the first female sports broadcasters, this mix of personalities made the show extremely popular. The show remained highly rated until 1990 when Snyder and Musburger both had their contracts terminated. The network decided to discontinue “The NFL Today,” ending Cross’s long run with the program. After this, he returned to game analyzing for two years, but after CBS declined to renew his contract; he did not return to television again. 

Still, his broadcasting work was celebrated and honored. In 2009, Cross received the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

“His story saddens and worries me to hear the long-term impact football players receive when it comes to their brain, as I have friends who play,” Miami Palmetto Senior High senior Maddison Diaz said. 

Cross lived a long, fulfilling, and memorable life. He broke the color barrier in sports broadcasting journalism all while becoming one of the best football players of his time. History will forever remember Cross’s accomplishments and honor them forever.