ESPN host Rachel Nichols apologised on-air ahead of the NBA finals after she could be heard insinuating on a leaked phone call that a Black colleague – Maria Taylor – was selected to lead the 2020 NBA finals broadcast because the network felt pressure over their bad record on diversity.
A report by The New York Times described a year-long effort at ESPN to calm tensions between Ms Nichols and Ms Taylor. The animosity involved racial issues and at one point prompted multiple on-air personalities to align themselves with one or the other of the hosts.
ESPN executives chose Ms Taylor over Ms Nichols to lead the network’s coverage of the 2020 NBA finals. Speaking to Adam Mendelsohn, adviser of LA Lakers star LeBron James, Ms Nichols said: “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – she covers football, she covers basketball.
“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.”
Ms Nichols told the paper that she was “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,” she added.
She said that she contacted Ms Taylor to apologise via texts and calls. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Ms Nichols told the paper.
On Monday afternoon, Ms Nichols started the daily NBA show The Jump with this message: “So the first thing they teach 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, 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.”
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