In a not-so-surprising move, ESPN has immediately pulled NBA: The Jump host and longtime sideline reporter Rachel Nichols from working the NBA Finals.
Announced Tuesday, July 6, the move was made in the wake of an exposing New York Times report about Nichols’ demeaning comments about fellow host Maria Taylor, which originally took place a year ago. While Nichols did not realize that the video was being recorded, over time it had been disseminated throughout the company by an ESPN employee.
For tonight’s Game 1 between the Chris Paul-led Phoenix Suns and Giannis Antetokounmpo’s Milwaukee Bucks, Malika Andrews will take Nichols’ place on the sideline for the entirety of the NBA Finals.
Nichols will continue to host ESPN’s The Jump for the foreseeable future.
“We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” ESPN said in a statement.
The taped conversation, which stemmed from last July, found Nichols commenting that her role as de facto sideline reporter may be up for grabs to Taylor after the NBA Finals because the network was feeling pressure to be more diverse.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world,” Nichols said in a Disney hotel room, unaware her camera was being recorded back at ESPN’s Bristol headquarters. “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 [woman] 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.”
Nichols expressed remorse, opening up the Monday, July 5, episode with an apology that followed one she made on Sunday.
“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,” Nichols said on the ESPN program.
“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.”Meanwhile, Taylor, whose contract is due to expire during the NBA Finals, has asked for a big increase on her $1 million per year salary and desires to be paid in a range similar to what Stephen A. Smith makes ($8 million per year). If the two sides cannot come to an agreement then Taylor would ideally join NBC as its new host for their channel.