A white TV anchor who was accidentally recorded saying that a high-profile black colleague had been given more work because bosses were “feeling pressure” on diversity has been axed from ESPN’s NBA programming.
Hugely influential reporter Rachel Nichols, who has been named among the most powerful journalists in the US during her long career, has lost her daily basketball show, ‘The Jump’, after five years as host after apologizing for making remarks about popular presenter Maria Taylor.
Nichols has courted controversy for remarks made about Taylor during a chat with an advisor to LeBron James, Adam Mendelsohn, that was accidenally recorded.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” she was heard saying during the call.
“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.”
ESPN did not appear to have initially disciplined Nicholls, but David Roberts, the newly-appointed head of the network’s NBA coverage, has confirmed that she will lose her show and be dropped from its basketball scheduling following the incident in July.
12/Mendelsohn, LeBron James’ adviser, and James’ agent, Rich Paul, when she made the comments.• A recording of Nichols’ conversation revealed her belief that ESPN only picked Taylor because they were “feeling pressure” about its “crappy longtime record on diversity,” pic.twitter.com/FVj3GZkUxI
— PMUnitedNews (@JettBlackMedia1) August 22, 2021
“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” he said in a statement.
“Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.”
Nichols told her Instagram following of more than 863,000 that there is “more to come” in her career.
Nichols has a year remaining on her contract and will still be paid, but won’t be on-air.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) August 25, 2021
“Got to create a whole show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favourite people talking about one [of] my favourite things,” she wrote.
“An eternal thank you to our amazing producers and crew – ‘The Jump’ was never built to last forever but it sure was fun.”
The former CNN reporter, who once asked boxing great Floyd Mayweather about his domestic violence record, apologized to Taylor on air shortly after the scandal broke.
“The first thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t be the story,” she told viewers as the NBA finals began.
“I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic finals. But I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN – how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”
A long-time employee on ‘The Jump’, Amin Elhassan, who is black, responded to Nicholls’ social media post by telling her: “We can honestly say we did NBA coverage better than it had ever been done at the worldwide leader in sports.”
Elhassan has repeatedly defended Nichols over the recording. He added: “I pity whoever has to walk in our footsteps.”