NBA reporter Rachel Nichols has created significant internal strife at ESPN after she unknowingly recorded herself commenting that coworker Maria Taylor hosted coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals because ESPN was “feeling pressure” to be more diverse.
The leaked audio appears to shows Nichols expressing frustration that ESPN gave Taylor the NBA Finals job. She suggested that the network should have instead made Taylor its NBA Finals sideline reporter over Doris Burke. Nichols said ESPN was “feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity.”
The New York Times reported that the call was recorded and stored on one of ESPN’s servers, which numerous employees have access to. One employee recorded it with their cell phone and sent it to others within the company, who then sent it to more employees. The call was eventually leaked to Deadspin and the Times.
“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.”
Nichols wasn’t out of line criticizing ESPN for its track record with diversity, but she obviously felt she was more qualified for the NBA Finals hosting job than Taylor.
Nichols told the New York Times she was just venting to a fellow employee and has apologized to Taylor, though she says Taylor has not yet accepted.
“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 admitted.
ESPN did not punish Nichols for her comments, an action that some ESPN employees told The Times was “an active source of pain” and discussion.
As of right now, Taylor will be working the NBA Finals with her countdown crew, that isn’t happy with Nichols’ comments either.