ESPN has reportedly taken Rachel Nichols off its NBA Finals coverage amid controversial leaked comments made by the veteran on-air host and reporter.
Sports business reporter Joe Pomplianoof Huddle Up reports Malika Andrews will replace Nichols as a sideline reporter during ESPN's upcoming NBA Finals coverage this week.
The decision comes after the New York Times published a report on Sunday (July 4) that included a leaked phone conversation from mid-July 2020 in which Nichols, who was eyeing hosting duties during the NBA playoffs and finals at the time, complained to public relations adviser Adam Mendelsohn-- who represents LeBron James and James' agent Rich Paul-- about her ongoing situation at ESPN.
During the conversation, Nichols implies that she is being overlooked for the hosting gig for Maria Taylor, who is Black, due to the company "feeling pressure" about racial diversity.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said during the conversation. “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.”
Nichols apologized for the incident during the latest episode of The Jump, which she's continued to host since the incident occurred last summer prior to it becoming public on Sunday.
“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.”
Co-hosts and former NBA players Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, both of whom are Black, showed their support of Nichols during the broadcast, but the New York Times reports numerous other colleagues were critical of Nichols behind closed doors, including NBA lead reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, who is White, reportedly referring to Nichols as a bad teammate.
Former NBA point guard and veteran broadcasterJalen Rose also reportedly acknowledged that he and other Black employees would no longer extend their credibility to the network in relation to the incident, according to the New York Times.
Taylor claimed that the only people punished by ESPN's actions were herself and other women of color --Lisa Salters, Cassidy Hubbarth, and Andrews -- all of whom received lesser assignments while Nichols continued in the lead sideline reporter role and having not been allowed to appear on the live broadcast.