ESPN presenter Rachel Nichols faces the camera after the Phoenix Suns game against the LA Clippers during the fifth game of the 2021 Western Conference Finals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 28, 2021 at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Michael Gonzales | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images
ESPN took action – a year later.
The sports broadcaster announced Tuesday that it had benched white NBA reporter Rachel Nichols from side coverage of the Milwaukee Bucks-Phoenix Suns final amid excitement over her suggestion last year that her black colleague Maria Taylor got a hosting appearance for the 2020 Final because of her breed.
ESPN’s move came two days after the New York Times published a bombshell report detailing the circumstances of Nichols’ accidentally recorded comments in July 2020 and the backlash they caused within Walt Disney’s own sports cable television giant describes. Nichols was reportedly never disciplined over her comments on Taylor during the call.
Taylor will appear with fellow ESPN reporters on “NBA Countdown” for pre- and mid-term coverage of the NBA finals, ESPN said.
Malika Andrews will take care of the side coverage during the finale, the network said. Nichols took on this role during the pro basketball playoffs.
But Nichols will appear on her show “The Jump” on location from the finals games “for weekday shows,” ESPN said.
The finale begins on Tuesday evening in Phoenix and will be broadcast on ABC.
“We believe that is [the] best decision for everyone involved to keep the NBA finals in focus. Rachel will continue to host The Jump, “the network said in a statement when it announced its line-up to cover the finals.
On Monday, Nichols apologized for the controversy when she opened the show on The Jump.
“I don’t want to let this moment go by without saying how much I respect and appreciate our colleagues here at ESPN,” said Nichols. “I am deeply sorry for disappointing those I hurt, especially Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be a part of this team.”
On Sunday, The Times reported that Taylor’s colleagues were discussing in May whether they would refuse to appear at the NBA countdown in protest of changes to production that they believed would benefit Nichols.
On the phone call from her Florida hotel room on July 13, 2020, Nichols resented the fact that Taylor Adam Mendelsohn, a longtime advisor to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, was receiving the host slot for the pre- and post-2020 final would have.
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That call was recorded on a video feed to ESPN’s Connecticut control room because Nichols didn’t know she hadn’t turned off the broadcast from a camera in her room.
In that call, Nichols Mendelsohn, who is white, suggested that Taylor got the spot because of her breed.
“If you have to give her more to do because you are feeling pressure because of your shitty long-term record in terms of diversity – which I know personally from the female side – then just do it. Just find it somewhere else. You won’t find it from me or take my thing away, “said Nichols.
Mendelsohn shortly thereafter in this call: “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter I have nothing left.”
Nichols laughed at his remark.
Shortly after the video was broadcast to Connecticut without Nichols’ knowledge, a tape of the call circulated within ESPN.
Mendelsohn apologized for that comment in an email to CNBC on Sunday after being asked about it.
“I made a stupid, careless comment rooted in privilege and I am truly sorry,” said Mendelsohn, who co-founded James’ More Than A Vote black group last year.
“I shouldn’t have said it or even thought it,” Mendelsohn said in an email.
“I work to support these movements and I know that the people affected by these problems are never exhausted or left with nothing. I need to keep reviewing my privilege and working to be a better ally, ”he added.