Rachel Nichols is back in the headlines on July 6 just two days after being exposed by The New York Times for saying in a recorded phone conversation that ESPN wanted Maria Taylor for the NBA Finals because the company is “feeling pressure about [their] crappy longtime record on diversity.”
After apologizing on Monday, it’s been reported by multiple outlets that the “NBA Countdown” host is now being removed as a sideline reporter for this year’s NBA Finals. ESPN’s Malika Andrews, who, like Taylor, is a Black NBA reporter, and will serve as her replacement on the sidelines. In their statement, ESPN said, “We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host The Jump.”
Nichols was under fire over the weekend after her phone call with LeBron James’ adviser Adam Mendelsohn and his agent Rich Paul from July 2020 was leaked. In it, she was initially complaining that ESPN asked her to take on another role for last year’s NBA Finals, and Nichols assumed it was because they wanted Taylor to do the full hosting. In the clip, Nichols says, “So they said to me ‘Hey, instead of hosting the NBA Finals, like why don’t you do Doris’ [Burke] sideline reporter job for the NBA Finals?’ ’Cause guess what that would clear the way for? For Maria to do the hosting full time. So I have declined.”
In the other part of the call, Nichols wished Taylor “all the success in the world” but said if ESPN is trying to polish up its diversity record the network should “go for it just find it somewhere else. Like, you’re not going to find it with me.” On Monday, she apologized “for disappointing those I hurt — particularly Maria Taylor — and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”
Nichols’ venting session with Mendelsohn and Paul was — unbeknownst to her — captured on Nichols’ camera and uploaded to an ESPN server. After that, an employee recorded a snippet of the call on their phone and began sharing it within the network, where it became common knowledge last year.
Taylor has yet to respond to the controversy surrounding Nichols’ call, but Nichols said she did try to call and text Taylor multiple times. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” she said.
Andrews is a graduate of The University of Portland and has previously worked as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune. In 2018, she joined ESPN as an online reporter and was promoted to a sideline reporter for the 2019-2020 NBA season.