Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

DMN Stories

Three witnesses still back Michael Irvin in Marriott lawsuit after video release

Irvin filed a lawsuit against the hotel chain after a female staffer accused him of sexual harassment.

By Michael Gehlken

Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin speaks at a press conference at the Regency Plaza in Dallas on Tuesday, March 14, 2023. A video from Irvin and a female staffer from the Phoenix Renaissance Hotel was played multiple times on the television behind Irvin.(Liesbeth Powers / Staff Photographer)

Six weeks have passed since Michael Irvin walked into a hotel bar in Arizona. Bryn Davis, Joe Manuele and Phil Watkins sat at a high-top table in the Dust Cutter inside Renaissance Phoenix Downtown when the former Cowboys wide receiver entered Feb. 5 shortly before 11 p.m. He wore light gray jeans and a tight-fitting gray T-shirt and held a black leather jacket.

Davis and Manuele recognized him immediately.

They gave Watkins, an Australian unfamiliar with American football, brief background on Irvin’s career as an athlete and broadcaster. Through a waitress, they offered to buy Irvin a drink. He declined but soon engaged them in conversation.

The three men were the final people with whom Irvin interacted before he met a female hotel staffer. The latter conversation led to a sexual harassment complaint against Irvin, his indefinite suspension from NFL Network, and a defamation lawsuit Irvin refiled last week against Marriott, the Renaissance Hotel Operating Company, his accuser and three other Renaissance employees.


Davis, Manuele and Watkins came forward last month as witnesses in support of Irvin. Since then, like the general public, they have learned specifics about the woman’s complaint and seen video surveillance footage of the less than two-minute talk between Irvin and her.

Neither development shifted their views, they told The Dallas Morning News in phone interviews Friday and Saturday. Each man expressed desire to see more video footage, explaining they believe yet-to-be-released recordings could further demonstrate why, in their estimation, Irvin has been unjustly treated.

“Nothing that I saw (in recent weeks) made me think, ‘Oh, shoot, maybe I think differently now or maybe I was wrong,’’’ Davis said. “Nothing like that whatsoever. It just seems more fabricated than it did when it started.”

Said Watkins: “In my opinion, he was essentially canceled until proven innocent.”

Davis, Manuele and Watkins said neither the hotel nor NFL has interviewed them about what they saw or heard that evening. They expressed disappointment, saying they have been and remain willing to speak on the matter.


While sitting nearby, they noticed no indication the conversation between Irvin and the woman was inappropriate.

On March 10, a Marriott attorney filed a motion in an Eastern District federal court that revealed details of the female staffer’s accusation against Irvin. According to the document, Irvin “flagged her down” to initiate the conversation. Marriott said he touched her arm during the encounter “without her consent, causing her to step back, becoming visibly uncomfortable.”

The woman reported Irvin made a lewd comment, asking her if she knew anything about having “a big Black man inside of [her].” She also said he told her that he would find her later in her work week, a comment that prompted hotel workers to believe Irvin should vacate the property.

In a news conference last week, Irvin said he “totally” denies the comment.

Davis, Manuele and Watkins disagreed with Marriott’s account on how the conversation began. After Irvin took photographs outside the hotel with the men, they all walked indoors together. As the three business associates returned to their high-top table, they recall the hotel staffer intercepting Irvin and striking up the conversation.


The surveillance video, released last week at a news conference, provides no definitive clarity; a pillar structure in the lobby partially obstructs the camera’s view.

Manuele said he believes the female hotel staffer knew who Irvin was before the conversation in question. Several minutes earlier, he said, their waitress asked about Irvin’s identity. Manuele recalled the waitress then spoke to the same woman who later spoke with Irvin.

“She came over to me, asking who it was, and then went over to see her and then talked to her immediately thereafter,” Manuele said. “It felt to me like the manager sent her waitress to ask me who [Irvin] was.”

The surveillance video, which contains no audio, shows the physical contact that occurred between Irvin and the woman. They twice shake hands. Irvin twice extends his right arm and touches her arm. The woman takes a step back each time.

Davis said other video footage would show Irvin made more physical contact with Davis than he did her.


“He rubbed my shoulders,” Davis said. “He was giving me a man-hug. He put his arm around me, all that kind of stuff. The whole time I was watching, I’m thinking, ‘Jesus, if he would have done any of that with that woman, this would have looked horrible.’ He was much more hands-on and buddy-buddy, cozy, all that kind of stuff than with this woman. To me, it appeared he was really respectful.”

WATCH: Tim Cowlishaw and Michael Gehlken break down the Michael Irvin incident

Unlike Davis and Watkins, Manuele stayed at the hotel.

He noticed the same female staffer at work the next day.

He and business partner Eric Byrnes, a retired MLB player, spoke with her. She seemed especially talkative and friendly, Manuele said, giving no indication she feared Irvin would find her and do her harm.

“If she felt threatened, she would have every right not to go to work,” Manuele said. “If anything, she wouldn’t have been nearly as engaging with us.”

Davis, Manuele and Watkins said they were surprised to learn, days later, about the allegation against Irvin.

They found him to be extremely personable, holding court with patrons in the hotel bar and telling football stories. After he declined their drink offer, Irvin explained he had work the next morning on ESPN. He has since acknowledged consuming alcohol that evening at dinner. Marriott said an employee noticed Irvin slur his words, but the three men said they recognized no such behavior.

Davis did not consume alcohol that evening.

Irvin discussed Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, suggesting his legacy could resemble that of Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly with another Super Bowl loss. He shared his game prediction for the following Sunday in nearby Glendale.

“The most controversial thing he said was the Eagles were going to win the Super Bowl,” Manuele said.

In one part of the released surveillance video, Irvin is shown doing what Marriott described as “leering” at the female employee while she walked from their conversation. Manuele said that, in this moment, Irvin is looking at him after Manuele asks if Irvin really believes the Eagles will win the Super Bowl.

Irvin said that he did, Manuele recalled.

On March 8, at a news conference in Dallas, Irvin became emotional when Davis and Watkins spoke to reporters in a video conference call. He said that he was grateful he spoke with those three men that evening because it otherwise would have been just his words versus hers.

Davis said he’s had similar thoughts.

“But the truth is,” Davis said, “if we weren’t there, he just probably would have went upstairs (and not spoken to the woman that night at all). …I never even thought about that. Now I feel bad.”

Bryn Davis, Michael Irvin, Phil Watkins and Joe Manuele
(Left to right: Bryn Davis, Michael Irvin, Phil Watkins and Joe Manuele) outside the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown hotel in Phoenix, Ariz., on Feb. 5, 2023.(Courtesy: Bryn Davis)
This story, originally published in The Dallas Morning News, is reprinted as part of a collaborative partnership between The Dallas Morning News and Texas Metro News. The partnership seeks to boost coverage of Dallas’ communities of color, particularly in southern Dallas- at the bottom.

Written By


Read The Current Issue

Texas Metro News

Determining Optimal Protein Intake For Muscle Growth buy steroids the 3 golden rules of muscle growth

You May Also Like

DMN Stories

Advocates said extreme ideologies have been targeting businesses and their diversity practices across the country.

DMN Stories

Austin Rep. Chip Roy foresees ‘reckoning’ over McCarthy’s deal with Biden.

DMN Stories

A deadlock over school choice has left teachers in the cold – for now, at least.


KERA | By Diane Solis | Dallas Morning News, Sujata Dand | Dallas Free Press/KERA The nonprofit Builders of Hope is working with the city of Dallas...