ESPN NBA sideline reporter and “The Jump” host Rachel Nichols issued a brief apology for comments she made about diversity and her colleague Maria Taylor to kick off “The Jump” on Monday afternoon.
A bombshell report from The New York Times on Sunday detailed the alleged heavy internal strife at the network over comments Nichols made in 2020 while Nichols and Taylor were both being considered to host coverage for the NBA Finals.
“The first thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t be the story, and I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals,” Nichols said Monday. “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.”
Nichols then turned it over to her co-hosts on “The Jump.”
“Well, Rachel, I want to say thank you,” Kendrick Perkins said. “Thank you for accepting responsibility for your actions. As someone that has known you for a long time, being around you, you have treated me with the utmost respect and you always made me feel comfortable in your presence. I know your heart, great person, great individual.
“I also know Maria Taylor. Great person as well, very, very talented, hardworking, and I feel like she also deserves every opportunity that is presented her way.
“My only hope is that we have a commitment overall to support each other through this process and continue to support each other through our journey.”
Richard Jefferson went next.
“I fully support Maria Taylor,” Jefferson said. “I worked with her since I joined ESPN … and I’ve known Rachel for 20 years. Rachel and our entire group here have had some very difficult conversations over this time period, and those conversations don’t end here. We will continue to have uncomfortable conversations. No one is excused, she is not excused, I am not excused, Perk — this doesn’t just go away. But we have to learn and understand and become better for each other, and really through our actions more than anything, and that is our responsibility.”
NYT report details Rachel Nichols’ comments about Maria Taylor
A report from The New York Times on Sunday detailed the internal strife at ESPN over comments Nichols made about Taylor last year.
Per The Times, Nichols was told by ESPN that Taylor, who is Black, was going to host the network’s coverage of the NBA Finals instead of her. Nichols was speaking with a longtime adviser of LeBron James, Adam Mendelsohn, on a call that was accidentally recorded and then later leaked.
During that call, Nichols can be heard saying that she thinks Taylor was only being promoted because of ESPN’s bad record on diversity.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in July 2020, via the New York Times. “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.”
That recording was accessible to numerous ESPN employees, one of whom eventually leaked it. That employee is the only one to have been disciplined over the incident so far, something that remains an “active source of pain” among other employees.
Nichols said initially that she was “shaken” that a “fellow employee” would record and share her private conversation. Nichols told the New York Times that she was just “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria."
“My own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here — if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her.”
Nichols said she reached out to Taylor multiple times to apologize, but Taylor “has chosen not to respond.” Nichols’ comments also upset plenty of her coworkers on “The Jump” and among those involved in NBA coverage, including Jalen Rose, Adrian Wojnarowski and Jay Williams.
After those comments were leaked, Taylor initially declined to host “NBA Countdown” during the Finals before changing her mind on the condition that Nichols not be on the show. ESPN agreed, but then ignored that and included prerecorded segments with Nichols that looked live.
More segments continued to be prerecorded, and ESPN threatened to prerecord every segment — which resulted in a blowup on a preshow call between commentators, including Taylor.
From The New York Times:
Taylor, whom executives had asked numerous times to change her interactions with Nichols, said that the only people punished by ESPN’s actions were women of color: [producer Kayla] Johnson, herself and the three sideline reporters — Lisa Salters, Cassidy Hubbarth and [Malika] Andrews — who received lesser assignments so that Nichols could have the lead sideline reporter role and now were not being allowed to appear on the show live.
Despite being one of the top reporters at the network, Taylor’s contract is set to expire this month during the Finals, and “few substantive steps have been taken toward a new deal,” per the report.
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