ESPN dumps Rachel Nichols from NBA Finals sideline reporter duties over comments about fellow host Maria Taylor
ESPN has sidelined Rachel Nichols for the NBA Finals.
The World Wide Leader announced its broadcast lineup for the Finals — without Nichols in her usual role as sideline reporter — less than nine hours before the Bucks and Suns play Game 1 in Phoenix Tuesday night.
Nichols will be replaced by Malika Andrews, but will continue to host “The Jump” on-site during the week.
“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host The Jump,” ESPN said in a statement.
Nichols was caught on video in July 2020 suggesting that fellow ESPN host Maria Taylor only got her job because she is Black. The New York Times published the details of a phone conversation she had with LeBron James spokesman Adam Mendelson and the resulting fallout at the network.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols, who is white, said in the video recording that was made during the NBA’s bubble season in Orlando. “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.”
Taylor had been promoted over Nichols to cover last season’s “NBA Countdown” pregame and halftime coverage of the Finals.
The video camera that Nichols used to tape her show from the bubble was still on when she had the conversation with Mendelson about Taylor, The Times reported. Copies of the conversation then spread around ESPN.
Nichols, who was not punished by ESPN at the time of her comments, has previously worked as ABC’s sideline reporter for the NBA Finals. Disney owns both ESPN and ABC.
The veteran broadcaster addressed the controversy on Monday’s episode of The Jump.”
“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. “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, who told The Times for Sunday’s article that she was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria,” said she had reached out to Taylor to apologize but had not heard back.
Taylor will host “NBA Countdown” during the Finals for a second season starting Tuesday night along with ESPN NBA analysts Jalen Rose, Jay Williams and ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski.