Maria Taylor Leaves ESPN After NBA Finals

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On Tuesday, he hosted the NBA finals for ESPN. He was gone the next day.

ESPN announced on Wednesday said Maria Taylor, one of the network’s high-profile talents, has left the company.

In an unusually succinct news release, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro acknowledged that Taylor was “looking for a new opportunity” but said he was “proud of the work we’ve done together.”

The separation had been expected since the beginning of this month. The New York Times reported About the derogatory comments about Taylor made by Rachel Nichols, one of her colleagues at ESPN. Nichols, who is White, said in a conversation with an adviser to LeBron James that he was unaware that Nichols was being recorded, ESPN executives “feeling the pressure that Taylor, who is Black, took on the role of hosting the NBA finals” on diversity.

The comments, made a year ago, festered within ESPN during the professional basketball season, causing tension among staff members of the NBA before it boiled over in May. On the first day of the playoffs, Taylor, along with her “NBA Countdown” colleagues Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, and Adrian Wojnarowski, considered boycotting the show in response to a directive from ESPN executives they believed was in Nichols’ benefit.

Some NBA players weighed in on social media, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver was frustrated with how ESPN was handling the situation, saying, “ESPN would have found a way to get around this. Obviously not.”

Last week, Pitaro sent a note to staff He stressed that Taylor was selected on merit-only basis to host the “NBA Countdown” for the finals, and said a future town hall-style meeting will address issues of diversity and inclusion.

Taylor’s contract status marked the finals. The plan that was negotiated years ago was that the deal would end in the off-season for NBA and college football, the two main sports covered for ESPN. The NBA finals were held later than usual due to the coronavirus, putting ESPN in a stalemate.

Taylor’s contract expired Tuesday, the day the Milwaukee Bucks clinched their NBA championship in Game 6. Managers feared the situation would only get worse if they had to replace Taylor for Game 7.

But they managed to get a deal to have Taylor stay with the company until the end of the finals, and ESPN executives continued to try to resign him to a long-term contract until fairly recently.

No new target has been announced for Taylor, but he is close to signing a deal with NBC, according to two people familiar with the negotiations and not authorized to speak about them publicly. On NBC, Taylor could become the NFL pregame show “Football Night in America” ​​and the studio host of the Super Bowl when the network’s turn comes to air. The Olympics, tennis and horse racing will also be options on NBC.

Taylor’s departure could force wholesale changes to ESPN’s NBA coverage.

At the very least, the company will have to choose a new host for “NBA Countdown,” TNT’s pre-game and halftime show that has changed personnel over the years to keep up with the widely acclaimed “Inside the NBA” or even “Inside the NBA.” own “College Play Day”. It may also need to find a new production structure: Just before the season began, the veteran producer who ran “NBA Countdown” in late 2020 left ESPN and the vice president above it was fired.

ESPN also has to decide whether to return Nichols to the role of main side reporter for NBA games next season. During the NBA finals, she was replaced by Malika Andrews, who previously worked at The Times.

Taylor’s departure leaves a gap in other areas for ESPN. She is also an analyst on “College GameDay”, a side reporter for the college football national championship game, and hosts the news of the women’s college basketball tournament and NFL draft.

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