ESPN’s Rachel Nichols Addresses Maria Taylor Controversy on “The Jump”

A bombshell report from the "New York Times" exposed internal conflict at the sports network

ESPN NBA sideline reporter Rachel Nichols works a 2021 game. The ESPN reporter's leaked comments about Maria Taylor are causing internal conflict at the sports network.
ESPN NBA sideline reporter Rachel Nichols works a 2021 game.
Brad Mangin/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

On Monday’s edition of all-things-NBA show The Jump, lead host Rachel Nichols addressed the internal controversy at ESPN regarding Maria Taylor that was highlighted by a recent bombshell report from The New York Times.

Speaking to start the show, Nichols apologized for private comments she made that were recorded and leaked to her colleagues at the network in which she suggested Maria Taylor, who is Black, got the job of hosting NBA Countdown because of the color of her skin. Those comments led to much internal conflict at the network and are likely complicating Taylor’s contract negotiations at ESPN.

“So the first thing they teach in journalism school is don’t be the story,” Nichols said on Monday. “And I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals, but I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt — particularly Maria Taylor — and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”

Following the apology on Monday, ESPN announced on Tuesday that Nichols will not be serving in her usual role as a sideline reporter during the NBA Finals.

Nichols made the comments that led to her apology and demotion while speaking with LeBron James’s advisor Adam Mendelsohn last summer while she was in the NBA bubble covering the playoffs for ESPN.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” she said. “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.”

Nichols obviously thought she should have landed the job hosting NBA Countdown, which airs in primetime during the playoffs, and that her bosses were promoting Taylor at her expense due to concerns about racial diversity.

When she was contacted by The Times and asked for comment, Nichols said was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria” because she was frustrated. She also said she had reached out to Taylor to apologize through texts and phone calls. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Nichols said.

By publicly apologizing on the network they both work for, Nichols has ensured her message will be heard by Taylor. Whether it will help or hurt the situation — or matter at all — is another matter.

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