Rachel Nichols’ secretly taped phone call last July leaked causing huge problems for ESPN.
In an explosive New York Times story, an audio clip from a video shows Nichols expressing her displeasure with it brings up that Maria Taylor received the NBA Finals hosting chores last year and believes the color of her skin has a lot to do with it. Nichols is white and Taylor – whose future on the network is uncertain as she’s looking for a big raise, as reported by The Post’s Andrew Marchand – is black.
« I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – she reports on football « She’s covering basketball, » Nichols said last July, according to a video obtained from The Times. « 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, by the way, I know personally from the female side – then do it. Just find it somewhere else. You won’t find it from me or take my thing away from me. «
» I just want them to go somewhere else – that’s in my contract, by the way; this job is written on my contract, « she added.
The conversation that ESPN staff had heard has not yet been made public. The Times reported that several black ESPN employees said the conversation further strengthened their belief that white people on the network who are publicly supportive do not act the same way in private.
The comments came from a conversation with Adam Mendelsohn, an advisor to LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul. Mendelsohn warned Nichols that ESPN was a “snake pit” and she should be careful.
“These same people – who are generally white conservative male Trump voters – are one of the reasons I had a difficult time at ESPN « Said Nichols during the taped conversation. “In the end, I ended up overtaxing everyone for so long that they had to realize it. I don’t want to be a victim then of them trying to make up for the same damage that hit me first, you know what I mean. So I just try to be nice. ”
ESPN declined to comment on the matter. Contacted by The Times, Nichols said she reached out to Taylor but received no response. Nichols said she spoke to a friend about her frustration, not Taylor, but ESPN.
« My own intentions in this conversation and the opinions of those in charge at ESPN are not the sum of what matters here – if Maria found the conversation bothersome, it was and I was the reason. ”She said.
An ESPN source told the Times ESPN’s decision to punish Nichols was an“ active source of pain ”and continues to be a topic of conversation among employees. It didn’t detract from Nichols’ job either. She was a sideline reporter for the network’s best NBA games and remained the host of « The Jump ». Taylor and Nichols did not have to interact, Nichols appearances on « NBA Countdown » were not recorded live. Other fringe reporters taped some of their appearances live.
Before the playoffs, ESPN decided that all side reporters coming on « NBA Countdown » would be banned from live interviews unless Taylor had Nichols live. It resulted in a staff explosion on May 22, in which Adrian Wojnarowski called Nichols a poor teammate, Taylor brought up the recorded phone call, and said the only employees punishing ESPN were women of color. The restrictions were finally lifted at the end of the day.
But now with Taylor’s contract expiring on or about July 20 and Nichols’ comments going public, ESPN is grappling with an internal storm that appears to be getting worse.
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