The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is requesting a meeting with ESPN and Walt Disney executives after expressing “outrage” over a recent New York Times report that uncovered "a toxic ESPN culture that appears to promote bias."
Clips obtained by the The New York Times showed reporter Rachel Nichols talking to LeBron James’ advisor Adam Mendelsohn while she was in the NBA bubble last July. According to the The New York Post, Nichols was unaware her video camera was on while she was on the phone and it was recorded and uploaded to an ESPN server.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in one clip. “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.”
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.”
The NABJ released a press release on Wednesday afternoon (July 7) calling Nichols’ comments “disappointing given the ongoing reports by Black journalists of white men advancing at ESPN because of their skin tone and not by merit."
“ESPN’s response to the matter was even more appalling, as the Times has documented what appears to be an attempt by ESPN to sweep the matter under the rug until it was recently exposed in greater detail,” the NABJ continued in their statement. “The company’s actions could have alienated Taylor and left another Black employee punished for exposing the matter.”
NABJ president Dorothy Tucker said in a statement the silence coming from leaders at ESPN over the past year has been “deafening” and formally requested a meeting with Disney executive Bob Iger, Disney CEO Bob Chapek and ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro.
"The company’s actions could have alienated Taylor and left another Black employee punished for exposing the matter," the NABJ statement said.
An ESPN spokesperson in a statement to NABJ said: “We’re proud to lead the sports media industry in making significant progress to develop and place diverse talent on-air and in key leadership positions. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity are top priorities at ESPN. We recognize more work needs to be done, and we will continue our commitment to creating a culture that reflects our values. Our partnership with NABJ is an integral part of that commitment.”