ESPN has been the center of controversy after Rachel Nichols’ “diversity” comments towards sports journalist Maria Taylor were leaked. To rectify the situation, the network decided to make some changes. ESPN announced that Taylor received a new role and will now be ESPN’s pregame and halftime shows during the NBA Finals. Nichols was also bumped from her role as the sideline reporter for the NBA Finals and replaced by NBA reporter Malika Andrews.
“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” ESPN said in a statement according to USA Today.
Nichols issued a public apology after a year-old audio clip of her making disparaging comments against Taylor surfaced via The New York Times. In the clip, Nichols is heard telling LeBron James’ spokesperson Adam Mendelsohn that Taylor was chosen as the NBA Finals host because ESPN needed to improve their diversity record.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols 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.”
She added, “I just want them to go somewhere else — it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.”
On the July 4 episode of The Jump, Nichols apologized.
“So 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,” she said. “I also didn’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect and 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.”
According to The New York Times, Nichols was never disciplined over these comments. The only person who was penalized was Kayla Johnson, an ESPN employee who sent the audio to Taylor. Johnson was suspended for two weeks without pay.
Taylor has not commented on this situation. She also declined to issue a statement to The New York Times.