The shot clock is winding down for ESPN sideline reporter-host Maria Taylor to accept a new $3 million contract with the network, or find a new employer.
Last year, the NCAA Women’s Tournament host was thrust into a tumultuous internal storm at the network when white colleague Rachel Nichols insinuated Taylor, who is Black, was a diversity hire when given the opportunity to host the NBA Finals.
For a year the network quietly tried to soothe tensions, but an explosive New York Times article exposing the audio of Nichols’ private commentary — which unknown to her was recorded by her work camera and uploaded to ESPN servers — threw a wrench into that plan.
In the recording Nichols is heard saying, “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.”
She continued, “She covers football, she covers basketball, if you need to give her more things to do because you’re feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I myself personally know from the female side of it — like, go for it, just find it somewhere else.”
With the 2021 NBA Finals underway, ESPN sought to save face by removing Nichols from her finals post, and instead replacing her with Black sideline reporter Malika Andrews. Taylor has continued her responsibilities of hosting “NBA Countdown.”
While Nichols has publicly apologized for the disparaging comments, and reached out to Taylor to no avail; her colleague has remained mum, albeit aside from a cryptic tweet about “I’ve taken some punches, but that just means I’m in the fight.”
But with $3 million on the table, three times her current salary, Taylor only has days left to accept the offer. If not accepted, Taylor’s contract expiring on July 20 could potentially see her depart from the network before the finals games are over — given there could be a championship winner of a required four games without a need for a game seven.
According to the NY Post, even if Taylor walks away, all hope may not be lost for her career. Amazon and NBC have expressed interest in her. Sport critics weighing in on the matter are mulling over online debates on what move Taylor should make.