NBA reporter Rachel Nichols sparked significant internal turmoil at ESPN after unwittingly including her comment that colleague Maria Taylor moderated coverage of the 2020 NBA final because ESPN “felt the pressure” to be more diverse.
The leaked audio appears to show Nichols expressing his frustration at ESPN giving Taylor the NBA final job. She suggested that the network should have made Taylor its NBA Finals side reporter instead of Doris Burke. Nichols said ESPN was “under pressure about your crappy long-term diversity record”.
The New York Times reported that the call was recorded and stored on one of ESPN’s servers, which many employees have access to. One employee picked it up on his cell phone and sent it to others within the company, who then sent it to other employees. The call was eventually leaked to Deadspin and the Times.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – she reports on football, she reports on basketball,” said Nichols. “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. “
Nichols didn’t criticize ESPN for its track record of diversity, but she obviously felt better qualified than Taylor for the job of hosting the NBA Finals.
Nichols told the New York Times that she just apologized to a colleague and apologized to Taylor, even though she says Taylor has not yet accepted.
“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 disturbing, it was and I was the reason.” Nichols admitted.
ESPN did not punish Nichols for her comments, an action some ESPN staff told The Times was “an active source of pain” and discussion.
As of now, Taylor is working with her countdown crew on the NBA finals, which is also not satisfied with Nichols’ comments.