Michael Irvin: Out of Bounds

LeCharles Bentley

Our society continues to merge into a homogenized crock-pot of ideas, sexual orientations and religious affiliations.  As with most change there is a level of resistance that leads to the birth of advocates and advocacy groups that spearhead the plight of their constituency to the masses.

But how far is too far in advocating for a cause?

Michael Irvin, one of the most recognizable sports figures of our age, has picked up the torch as a gay rights activist.  His compelling interview with “Out” magazine was one of the most open and honest dialogues witnessed from a sports superstar, in regards to homosexuality.

I happen to completely agree with the fundamental thrust of the interview. Michael Irvin says, “…no one should be telling you who you should love, no one should be telling you who you should be spending the rest of your life with…” and he’s right.  Irvin’s personal battles have not kept him from captivating sports audiences, so it’s not surprising he elevated the conversation to a place it needs to go. The concern, though, isn’t so much what Irvin said, but what he did that has the sports world abuzz.

His decision to pose for a “sexy” photo spread begs the question — how far is too far as an advocate?  “Out: positions itself a lifestyle magazine for gay men and is comparable to Maxim, which means it’s not above selling sex to sell magazines. As advocates you are often asked to lend your voice, time and dime to support the cause.

Irvin lending his body as a pseudo sex symbol for the gay community is a step too far.  What was presented and in the fashion it was done only perpetuates the ugly stereotypes of homosexual men.

Homsosexuality from the male perspective sometimes positions gays as sex crazed maniacs. This is the furthest thing from the truth. But there is a large sect of society that holds antiquated stereotypes near and dear to their hearts.

As a community and as an advocate the objective isn’t to perpetuate stereotypes but to eradicate them through education.  Michael Irvin’s voice is extremely powerful and is enough to draw ears to the cause. But greasing up his body and posterizing it on the cover of a “lifestyle” magazine does more harm than good.

There are those that like to draw the parralels between the civil rights movement and the gay community’s struggles – even though gay struggles pale in comparison to the horrors the black community faced in its fight for equality.

Advocates don’t have to be a part of the community; they just have to believe in the cause.  Martyrs like Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Malcom X paid the ultimate price in advocating their cause, and they were a part of the black community.

Michael Irvin articulated in his interview that he was not a homosexual but a straight male so put him in the category of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, white civil rights advocates (CORE)  murdered by Ku Klux Klan members in Philadelphia, Miss., merely for their  involvement with the movement.  They were not a part of the community but were willing to pay the ultimate price.

The presence and voice of those two white men in support of civil rights was extremely powerful.  They didn’t need to dress up in black face and tap shoes to prove their alignment with the struggle.  Unlike Michael Irvin and “Out” magazine they were able to recognize when enough was more than enough.

The movement didn’t need its Caucasian activists to be more than what they were because anything more runs the risk of looking tacky and desperate, which is what happened with Irvin photo shoot. We don’t need to see Irvin to believe in or agree with his principles. We just need to hear him. Doing anything else takes away from the dignity of his argument, and panders to the stereotypes he is trying to eliminate.

In this case, Michael Irvin went too far.

Follow LeCharles on Twitter @LeCharlesBent65



  1. Yea, I completely agree with that, as a matter of act I have had personal experience with someone going ‘too far’ to support a cause, and so much so that the person became the center of the situation from the circle of friends point of view and not the issue itself. By that I mean it was more than just hey I support it here we go, but as you point out, they went way out of character to do so. That definitely seems to be the case here… unless the brotha got paid.. handsomely… cause if so.. I support the cause, oil me up!

  2. Ugh. You would be so much more believable, and come across as so much more reasonable and worthy of listening to, if you weren’t so certain of your opinion. This is a very complex issue of which you do not completely understand, and you must come at this with nothing more than an opinion. Not a statement of truth. You have no idea the effect this will have, and to say it will “do more harm than good” is just ignorant.

    Ignorance begets confidence more often than does knowledge. Your certainty only comes from how limited and ignorant your view of the issue is.

  3. LeCharles,

    I have never wanted to write or call in until I heard your misguided rant on Outside the Lines.

    You seem to be upset with the Michael Irvin photo on the cover of Out, because you think that Out is an advocate for the gay community. According to their own home page, Out is “A gay and lesbian perspective on style, entertainment, fashion, the arts, politics, culture, and the world at large.” Out seems to provide content for the gay community that they cannot find elsewhere. They are a lifestyle magazine, similar to the dozens of others that cater to the straight communities. Out does not proclaim to advocate for the gay lifestyle or gay rights, the same way Maxim doesn’t advocate for straight causes or male causes. Your combatant said it best “I’m not an advocate, I am a journalist.”

    Maxim has attractive females on their cover for the same reason Out had a shirtless Michael Irvin on its cover: because that is what their readers want to see. And what stereotype was Michael Irvin perpetuating? He is straight! He wasn’t perpetuating any stereotype, he was working to negate the stereotype that all ‘macho” athletes are uncomfortable with homosexuality.

    The main problem I have with your rant this afternoon and your post above, is that for the life of me, I still cannot determine what your problem with the cover is. Maybe its because you try to hide behind so many big words and nonsensical analogies. Your blackface analogy is way off-base and I have no idea why you made an un-needed comparison of gay struggle to black struggle. You seen to have a way with making an singular event more symbolic/important/meaningful than it really is

    So Michael Irvin shirtless is like white civil rights leader in blackface? What!? Black people, who civil rights leaders were fighting for, would not want to see white people in blackface, in fact, I’m sure it might have offended them. But what problem would anyone in the gay community have with Michael Irvin being shirtless on the cover of Out? And why do you think this detracts from the message of the article? It enhances the message, because it shows just how comfortable a hall-of-fame athlete is with the gay community.

    You wrote “The movement didn’t need its Caucasian activists to be more than what they were because anything more runs the risk of looking tacky and desperate, which is what happened with Irvin photo shoot.” How did Irvin look tacky and desperate, and how was he trying to be more than what he is? Michael Irvin is a heterosexual male in great physical shape, which is what he portrayed on the cover. He wasn’t doing anything outrageous and wasn’t accompanied by any outrageous text. He simply appeared as who is is, a accomplished athlete with a gay brother.

    I think the main thing that most people who heard your rant or read your post will realize is that YOU are uncomfortable with the photo because of your personal feelings, whatever they may be. And that is the problem, not Out Magazine or Michael Irvin.


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