Irv Cross was a leading figure in making sports television more inclusive. His work on the groundbreaking “The NFL Today” helped to bring many more Black faces to screens.
Cross died Sunday at age 81. His death was announced by the Eagles, for whom Cross played as a defensive back from 1961-65 and 1969. (He also played for the Rams from 1966-68.) No cause of death was given.
Cross made history in 1971, just over a year after he retired from football, when he became the first Black full-time network TV sports analyst, working NFL games for CBS and hosting studio shows. His broadcasting career began several years earlier while he was still playing; he did radio and TV sports in Philadelphia.
In 1975, he was cast with Phyllis George, Brent Musburger and Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder for the premiere of CBS’s live NFL pregame show, “The NFL Today.” George was the first woman to report full time on the NFL on network television. She died in May 2020.
Cross worked on “The NFL Today” through 1989 and was with CBS through 1994.
“He was a true gentleman and a trailblazer in the sports television industry and will be remembered for his accomplishments and the paths he paved for those who followed,” CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said in a prepared statement.
Musburger hailed Cross as his “go-to mainstay” on “The NFL Today.”
Several of those followed acknowledged Cross’ influence.
It was my honor to speak to the great Irv Cross last June for a story on how he and the equally great Sonny Hill–two Philly legends-broke down barriers and became trailblazing Black TV broadcasters for young kids like me. Rest in Power, Mr. Cross: https://t.co/OIOvr6KYuw
— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) March 1, 2021
RIP to a legend. As a kid, I watched the NFL Today every Sunday harboring football dreams. Little did I know, the Black announcer was a former Pro Bowler blazing a path that I and many other players would follow to the TV booth. pic.twitter.com/AKkCVvEX6r
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) March 1, 2021
The Pro Football Hall of Fame honored Cross in 2009 with the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award.