Twitter users were generally confounded when NBC Sports announcer Mike Tirico essentially said he wasn’t black Saturday. Instead, Tirico considers himself an Italian guy who grew up in Queens, New York.
The discussion about his race came up during a Saturday interview with the New York Times titled, “Mike Tirico Would Like to Talk About Anything but Mike Tirico.”
“Why do I have to check any box?” he said. “If we live in a world where we’re not supposed to judge, why should anyone care about identifying?”
He added: “The race question in America is one that probably never produces a satisfactory answer for those who are asking the questions.”
It’s not the first time the question about Tirico’s race first came up. He mentioned it for the first time during a 1991 interview with the Post-Standard.
“When people go around and say, ‘You are black’ — well, I don’t encourage it, but by the same token I don’t back off of it,” he said at the time. “If you want to call me that, that’s fine. But, you know, in my whole family, there’s nobody I know who is black.”
Tirico said he was raised by his white mother, Maria. “The only contact I had growing up was with my mom’s side of the family. And they are all as white as the refrigerator I’m standing in front of right now,” he explained.
Tirico elaborated on the confusion of his race. “I know the story sounds like a lot of bull, but it’s the truth” he said about finding out if he has black ancestor. “Does it matter to me? Yeah, I’d like to find out the truth at some point, so I can answer questions for my kids. But me? I’m living, I’m working, I’m leading an upstanding life. I don’t worry about it.”
While Tirico, a former ESPN correspondent, is confused about his race because he never met his father, Twitter users were not. Users quickly began to post memes and gifs of his interview. Some pointed out they thought he was undeniably black, others said they didn’t see him as Italian — and would like to see him in Italy.