Sports reporter and TV anchor Rachel Nichols will no longer be featured on any NBA programs aired on ESPN. Her weekday afternoon show “The Jump” will also be canceled following her leaked audio scandal this summer.
As previously reported, Nichols, who is white, faced backlash after a recording of her speculating that former “NBA Countdown” host Maria Taylor, who is Black, was getting a diversity promotion was made public by The New York Times last month. Nichols inadvertently recorded herself on a phone call with LeBron James adviser Adam Mendelsohn and James’ agent Rich Paul around the time Taylor was awarded hosting duties for the 2020 NBA Finals, a job that previously had belong to Nichols. The call was stored on ESPN’s servers and soon spread across the network last summer.
“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned. Rachel is an excellent reporter, host, and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content,” ESPN’s senior vice president of production David Roberts said in a statement. according to the Sports Business Journal.
Nichols addressed the decision — which she was reportedly made aware of this week — on Instagram shortly after news broke. “Got to create a whole show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favorite people❤️ talking about one my favorite things 🏀,” she wrote. “An eternal thank you to our amazing producers & crew – The Jump was never built to last forever but it sure was fun. 😎 More to come…”
“The Jump” will still air for the next couple of weeks but will feature a guest host—Nichols is said to still be under contract. The Sports Business Journal reports that ESPN will be launching a new afternoon NBA show, although details surrounding that have yet to be finalized.
Aforementioned, in what was thought to be a private conversation, Nichols expressed frustration that her Black peer replaced her. “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world—she covers football, she covers basketball,” she said in 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.”
Taylor, who was in the process of negotiating her contract renewal with ESPN at the time the audio was leaked to the Times, eventually parted company with the network and joined NBC Sports, where she joined the network’s Tokyo Olympics coverage last month.
The Nichols shakeup is one of two such moves announced at ESPN this week. Max Kellerman, Stephen A. Smith’s co-host on the popular “First Take” sports talk show for the past five years, has been removed from the show, the network announced. “First Take” is expected to see a change in format, and Kellerman will get expanded duties on ESPN Radio and possibly a still-to-be-announced TV show. There is no word on wha prompted the network’s change.