Audio of Nichols criticizing the network’s choice of a Black colleague to host an NBA Finals show was leaked in July
It appears longtime ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols’ time with the network is over. They announced today they are removing Nichols as host from all NBA programming, as well as canceling her popular show The Jump, according to Yahoo Sports.
The network’s SVP of production, David Roberts, confirmed the decision to Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand on August 25, noting that both the network and Nichols “mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned.”
“Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content,” Roberts continued.
Nichols reiterated Roberts’ announcement in her own tweet. She thanked The Jump‘s production crew and promised that fans will see her elsewhere.
Nichols’ contract was not set to end for another year, but after the controversy that came from her leaked comments about her former ESPN colleague Maria Taylor, a shift was almost imminent.
Taylor, who is Black, rose in the ranks at the network over seven years covering football and basketball. Nichols’ leaked comments indicated that she believed Taylor was only receiving promotions because of the network’s diversity efforts as opposed to her talent and hard work.
Nichols’ comments leaked in July, but were known about internally at ESPN for a year. She made the comments to LeBron James’ adviser, Adam Mendelsohn. The conversation was recorded while she was still mic’d but unaware that the recording would be transmitted to the network through her video feed.
ESPN television host/moderator Rachel Nichols speaks during a press event at CES 2019 at the Aria Resort (Getty Images)
An ESPN staffer discovered the audio and recorded it on her cell phone and shared it internally. It was then leaked to the media.
Nichols, who felt she had earned the NBA Finals hosting gig, was to be replaced by Taylor on NBA Countdown during finals coverage in 2020. Nichols had been covering the league for ESPN in the Orlando ‘bubble,’ which helped the league continue the season despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
She was overheard saying of Taylor:
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world. 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 reportedly refused to work on air with Nichols after the leak.
Taylor left ESPN for NBC when her contract ended in July. The Jump will continue to air for the next couple of weeks despite Nichols’ absence. The network will produce a new afternoon NBA show in its place ahead of the new NBA season, but there is no word yet as to who the new hosts will be.
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