Report: ESPN’s Maria Taylor on Verge of Signing With Rival NBC

ESPN wants to retain Taylor but may not be willing to pay her what she wants

Maria Taylor reports from the sideline
Maria Taylor reports from the sideline during the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Following a complicated couple of weeks at ESPN due to her involvement with the Rachel Nichols controversy, Maria Taylor is nearing a deal to leave The Worldwide Leader for NBC, according to Front Office Sports.

With her contract set to expire on July 20, Taylor is seeking $5 million or more per year from ESPN but has only been offered $3 million annually, which would be a tripling of her salary. Taylor reportedly turned down a higher-paying deal from ESPN because she was looking for “Stephen A. Smith money” ($12 million per year). 

An experienced host who is currently serving as the face of NBA Countdown during the NBA Finals and has anchored College GameDay in the past, Taylor could become the new host of Football Night in America as Mike Tirico transitions into the play-by-play post currently held by Al Michaels. Set to broadcast the Olympics starting later this month, NBC could also give Taylor the chance to star on the international TV stage as a correspondent. “The deal’s at the half-yard line. But that can still be a long way in contract negotiations,” a source told FOS.

Losing a young Black woman of Taylor’s status in the wake of Nichols’s leaked comments about the network would not be ideal for ESPN and it’s certainly possible the two sides will reach a last-minute agreement if more money is added into the equation.

With Taylor’s status in limbo and issues of racism within ESPN a hot topic, president Jimmy Pitaro sent out a memo to reaffirm the network’s commitment to diversity and inclusion last week, per the Sports Business Journal.

“I am reaching out today knowing that recent events have left many of you concerned about our commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging,” Pitaro wrote. “We respect and acknowledge there are a variety of feelings about what happened and the actions we took. The details of what took place last year are confidential, nuanced and complicated personnel matters.”

Per Pitaro’s memo, more than half of the 116 contract offers that have been accepted by employees year-to-date have been signed by people of color and 42% of the agreed-upon deals have gone to women. Among ESPN’s executive leadership team, 63% are women and/or people of color.

“The goal of this note is to ensure everyone understands where we are at this moment and to know that we have an ongoing focus on improving, and a commitment to listening,” the memo concludes. “We plan to address diversity and inclusion at an upcoming ESPN town hall later this month, and we will continue to have focused conversations with the Black and African American community at ESPN in the coming weeks. As always, we value an open and honest dialogue. Change takes time, and I ask for your partnership on this journey. Know that our leadership is committed to accelerating our efforts and working toward a collective goal – an ESPN where everyone feels they belong.”

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