Rachel Nichols – and ESPN – in Hot Water Over Maria Taylor Comments
Longtime ESPN anchor and reporter Rachel Nichols is in hot water over comments made last summer regarding the sports network making Maria Taylor the lead host for the NBA Finals. Nichols, who hosts The Jump for ESPN, was hoping to secure both the pregame and postgame coverage of the Finals, according to The New York Times. While in the ‘Bubble’ in Orlando, ESPN executives informed her that Taylor was going to be given the hosting responsibilities for professional basketball’s ultimate series.
Nichols was none too pleased and, in a private conversation with a friend, alleged that Taylor was given the responsibility because she is Black.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in July 2020. “If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”VIA The New York Times
The conversation came to light, however, because Nichols failed to turn off her camera after pre-recording a show segment. While Nichols likely did not immediately realize, it was already too late. The audio recording was relayed to several servers at ESPN where at least one employee recorded the conversation on their phone and shared it with other employees at the network. Nichols’ comments have since sparked an intense divide among ESPN NBA personnel on whether to boycott appearances or continue their reporting.
ESPN personalities including Jalen Rose, Jay Williams and Adrian Wojnarowski held a preshow phone call with Taylor regarding further action they could take. During that conversation, Wojnarowski went as far as to call Nichols a “bad teammate” and Rose said that he, and other, Black employees would “no longer extend their credibility” to ESPN any longer, according to The Times.
Despite the increased backlash from employees within the organization and those outside of ESPN, the network is confident they handled the situation appropriately, according to spokesman Josh Krulewitz.
“A diverse group of executives thoroughly and fairly considered all the facts related to the incident and then addressed the situation appropriately. We’re proud of the coverage we continue to produce, and our focus will remain on Maria, Rachel and the rest of the talented team collectively serving N.B.A. fans.”VIA The New York Times
Nichols, in her one and only comment to The Times, said that she was “frustrated” and “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.” The reporter, who is in her second stint with ESPN, also said that she reached out to Taylor to apologize.
“Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Nichols said.VIA The New York Times
Taylor declined to comment to The Times. ESPN maintains that the network handled the situation correctly and appropriately, while employees at the network, whether in private or publicly, feel as if the comments are just another one of ESPN’s mishandlings of race in the workplace. Taylor’s contract with the network expires during the N.B.A. finals and it appears that no headway has been made in signing a new deal.
One of sport media’s rising stars may be leaving ESPN soon, and the fallout may be cataclysmic.
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