Rachel Nichols Covers NBA Finals on ABC


When a side reporter first appeared on ABC’s broadcast of the NBA finals Tuesday night, it wasn’t Rachel Nichols, a sudden change announced by ESPN earlier in the day. It was an attempt to stop a year-long scandal that went viral over the company’s handling of race-based conflicts.

The decision was made later that Malika Andrews should be the side reporter instead. The New York Times reported Nichols, who is white, made derogatory comments about a Black colleague, Maria Taylor, last year. Among other things, Nichols said Taylor was selected to host the NBA finals last season because ESPN “feels pressure” about diversity.

Nichols’ comments came during a private phone call while he was quarantined at a Florida hotel last July, before the NBA resumed its season, which was halted by the coronavirus pandemic. She was seeking career guidance from Adam Mendelsohn, a consultant and political strategist who worked closely with Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. The phone call was accidentally recorded on camera and uploaded to a server at the company’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., which then quickly spread among ESPN staff.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – it covers football and basketball,” Nichols told Mendelsohn during the interview. “Like if you need to give him more to do because you feel pressured about your longstanding lousy track record in diversity – which, by the way, I personally know from the female side – go for it. Just find it elsewhere. You won’t be able to find it from me or take my stuff from me.”

There has been wide-ranging discussion of comments inside and outside of ESPN over the past two days, including from former employees and even NBA players. Memphis Grizzlies quarterback Ja Morant tweeted To support Taylor, some high-profile former ESPN staffers, including Dan Le Batard and Jemele Hill, have discussed the matter. Le Batard’s show Tuesday morning.

In a sign of the scandal’s spreading complexity, commentators weighed in on multiple issues, including ESPN’s discipline and management, and the friendship and professional relationship between Nichols and Mendelsohn. Some focused on privacy issues with recorded phone call. Others have expressed in a discussion about white privilege and career advancement that Nichols was related by marriage to famed broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer and Academy Award-winning director Mike Nichols.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed the situation at length at a press conference ahead of Game 1 between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.

“This is discouraging,” Silver said. She said Nichols and Taylor were “awesome” at their jobs and that it was “unfortunate that two women in the industry came across”. He said he would think “ESPN would have found a way to get around this” through difficult conversations. Obviously not.”

Nichols was a sideline reporter at last year’s finals and ESPN’s most important NBA games this season. Both ABC and ESPN are owned by Disney. “We believe this is the best decision for everyone involved to focus on the NBA finals,” ESPN said in a statement. Said.

Nichols hosted an episode of “The Jump” on Monday, and ESPN said earlier Tuesday that it will host the weekday show from the games’ sites throughout the finals. However, even though “The Jump” was listed on television programs to air on ESPN2 on Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm in the East, “Jalen & Jacoby” was broadcast instead.

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz did not respond to a request for comment on why the show was not aired.

Nichols, who has hosted “The Jump” since 2016, briefly commented on the recording and his remarks about Taylor during Monday’s show.

He said he didn’t want to divert his attention from the crescendo to the NBA season. But Nichols added, “She didn’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for hurting, especially for disappointing Maria Taylor. I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson, two former black NBA players who are regulars of “The Jump”, attended the show. Perkins thanked Nichols for “taking responsibility” and added that she knew his heart and was “a wonderful person, a wonderful individual.” He complimented Taylor as well.

Perkins went to Spaces after receiving criticism on social media for defending Nichols in his comments, Twitter’s voice app, to explain yourself. “At the end of the day, I can’t risk going out and going crazy and losing my job because some people want me to go out there and tell them how they feel,” Perkins said.

First time part of a final comment team, Andrews is a former correspondent for The Times.

Taylor will host episodes of “NBA Countdown,” ESPN’s pre-game and halftime show, in the finals. Neither Taylor nor the show’s commentators Jalen Rose, Adrian Wojnarowski and Jay Williams appeared to address the mayhem on the show ahead of the opening game.

If the Finals goes into game six or seven, ESPN may have a dilemma to solve. Taylor’s contract with ESPN expires towards the end of the finals, and to date neither side has been close on a renewal.


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