ESPN has reportedly benched reporter Rachel Nichols from its NBA Finals sideline coverage after receiving backlash over a recording that surfaced of her making disparaging comments about her Black colleague, Maria Taylor.
In a statement, ESPN told CBS News its decision will keep the focus on the Finals, which kicked off on Tuesday (July 6).
Instead of Nichols, reporter Malika Andrews will provide the sideline reports. The network said Nichols will still host The Jump during the NBA Finals. Taylor is still scheduled to host NBA Countdown for the series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns.
Clips obtained by the New York Times showed Nichols talking to LeBron James’ advisor Adam Mendelsohn while she was in the NBA bubble last July. According to 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.”
On Monday (July 5), during the opening of The Jump on ESPN 2, Nichols made an on-air apology to Taylor.
“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. “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.”
The Times reports many ESPN employees were “outraged” by Nichols’ comments in the video with one telling the newspaper that Nichols not being punished over her comments was “an active source of pain.”
Taylor has not publicly commented since the release of the clip and declined comment to The Times.
(Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW)