“NBA Countdown” host Maria Taylor is parting ways with ESPN, just weeks after her co-worker NBA sideline reporter Rachel Nichols was exposed in a phone call leaked to The New York Times for insinuating in a private but leaked phone call that the company only hired Taylor for extra hosting work to appear more diverse.
The news comes after Taylor had been contemplating extending her contract with ESPN for $3 million which is three times more than what she was making before. “After much discussion, an agreement on a contract extension could not be reached,” says the ESPN press release which was released on July 21.
Taylor said, “So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content Jimmy Pitaro said, “Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
It has yet to be revealed what Taylor’s “new opportunity,” is but the NY Post is reporting that Taylor took on a new opportunity with NBC Sports and is expected to be reporting at the Tokyo Olympics.
Taylor kept quiet about her drama with Nichols who, in what was supposed to be a private phone call on July 13, 2020, with LeBron James adviser Adam Mendelsohn and Rich Paul, James’ agent, complained about Taylor doing “full time hosting” for the 2020 NBA Finals, a job Nichols considered hers. Nichols said during the call, which she apparently uploaded to ESPN’s servers by accident, “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.”
The call soon began to be disseminated internally at ESPN, eventually reaching Taylor herself. After the controversy became public, Nichols apologized on her talk show “The Jump” and even released a statement saying she reached out to Taylor but her apology was not met with a response from Taylor.