ESPN Host Rachel Nichols, who is white, alluded to the fact that her black female co-worker Maria Taylor received preferential treatment due to her race. Taylor became the host of the 2020 NBA Finals instead of Nichols. Nichols says that Taylor was probably given that job due to ESPN struggling with diversity issues. The bombshell news comes from a phone call that was recorded without Nichols’ knowledge.
Back in July 2020, Nichols recorded a remote “hit” (recorded segment) with ESPN from a hotel room. This is during the height of the virus pandemic so it was probably impossible to visit the studio in person. After that call, Nichols got on a separate call with Klutch Sports to request an interview with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Nichols wound up speaking candidly with LeBron’s top advisor, Adam Mendelsohn. What started as a call to request interviews became Nichols venting about being replaced by Maria Taylor to host the Finals.
All of this phone call was recorded because Rachel Nichols forgot to turn off her camera that fed into ESPN. Audio and video of her conversation were recorded and stored at an ESPN server. The audio was initially leaked internally at ESPN. Then a black female ESPN employee leaked it to Maria Taylor and also Deadspin along with another major media outlet.
Rachel Nichols told Adam Mendelsohn that she declined a secondary role after the primary role of hosting the finals was given to Maria Taylor. She also said that ESPN has an abysmal track record of diversity and hiring Taylor to host the finals may be their way of making up for it. Surely, there could be other reasons why ESPN would want to give Maria Taylor the job. There is the looks factor that shouldn’t be ignored. Maria Taylor is most likely seen as a more attractive woman than Rachel Nichols. And this goes a long way on television where the visual is the primary focus. Or maybe Maria Taylor does a better job at hosting than Nichols does.
ESPN has built itself on a tower of “diversity and inclusion”. So when allegations like this come about, it simply intensifies the already heavily divided “clique” structure of the company. This phone call has caused a lot of internal strife at ESPN. There were rumors of a potential boycott of “NBA Countdown” the show she co-hosts with former NBA players Jay Williams and Jalen Rose.
Then, there is the issue of corporate drama and money. Maria Taylor’s contract expires in just a few days. ESPN is currently in danger of losing Maria Taylor to another network such as Fox Sports One just like they lost Skip Bayless. Jason Whitlock, also formerly of ESPN, says this year-old audio could have been leaked by Maria’s people to give her leverage in contract negotiations. Taylor was allegedly offered up to $5 million per year but wants closer to $8 million. Rachel Nichol’s contract is probably higher than the offer given to Maria Taylor and that is surely a point of contention fueling the dumpster fire over at the network.
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