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Irv Cross (1939–2021), pioneering sportscaster

by Linnea Crowther

Irv Cross was a football player and sportscaster who became the first Black sports analyst on national television and co-hosted “The NFL Today.”

Groundbreaking career

Cross played college football for the Northwestern University Wildcats before being selected by the Philadelphia Eagles in the 1961 NFL Draft. He played for the Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams and was a two-time Pro Bowl selection before retiring from his playing career in 1969. In 1971, Cross began working as a commentator and analyst for CBS Sports, becoming the first Black sportscaster working before a national audience. When “The NFL Today” debuted in 1975, he became one of its co-hosts, remaining with the show until 1989 as the first Black person to co-anchor a major sports program. In later years, Cross was the athletic director at Idaho State University and Macalester College, and he served as CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Minnesota. In 2009, Cross was honored with the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, the first Black sportscaster to receive the honor.

Notable quote

“All my life I’ve been the only Black in my classrooms or the first Black to do this or that. I am concerned a little about how my kids will be accepted. But our kids always have had a different take on the world. We treat people fairly, and we expect to be treated fairly.” —from a 1996 interview with Sports Illustrated

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Tributes to Irv Cross

Full obituary: The Philadelphia Inquirer

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