ESPN presenter Rachel Nichols faces the camera after the Phoenix Suns game against the LA Clippers during the fifth game of the 2021 Western Conference Finals of the 2021 NBA Playoffs on June 28, 2021 at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Michael Gonzales | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images
ESPN was unable to air reporter Rachel Nichols ‘scheduled NBA afternoon show Tuesday, hours after she stopped her from doing side coverage of the NBA finals because she suggested to LeBron James’ key adviser that black colleague Maria Taylor last Year had gotten a hosting gig because of their breed.
The drama about the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports occurred in the hours before the final between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns, which was supposed to give a tip in Phoenix.
Nichols, who is white, was the primary sideline reporter for ESPN during the NBA playoffs. The expectation had been that she would continue this role through the finale.
But on Sunday the New York Times published a bombshell report detailing the circumstances of Nichols’ accidentally taped call to James advisor Adam Mendelsohn in July 2020 and the backlash it caused within Walt Disney’s own sports cable television giant .
In that call, Nichols Mendelsohn, who is also white, suggested that Taylor got a plum stain because of her race that is hosting the 2020 final shows, the Times reported. Nichols expected to get this seat.
“If you have to give her more to do because you’re feeling pressure from your shitty long-standing record of diversity – which I know personally from the female side, by the way – then do it,” said Nichols of the call, the audio of which was released by The Times has been.
“Just find it somewhere else. You won’t find it from me or take my thing away, ”she said.
According to the Times report, Mendelsohn said in that call shortly after, “I don’t know. I am exhausted. I have nothing left between Me Too and Black Lives Matter. “
Nichols laughed at his remark.
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The conversation was taped and fed into the ESPN Connecticut control room from a live camera in Nichols’ Florida hotel room. A tape of that call quickly circulated on ESPN that Nichols reportedly never disciplined for what she said about Taylor during the call.
On Tuesday, ESPN announced that Nichols would not appear on the sidelines during the finals or NBA Countdown, the pre-game and halftime show for the championship series.
Taylor will host this show with fellow ESPN reporters, the network said.
ESPN also announced that Malika Andrews – who is Black – will be doing the side coverage during the finale. But the network said Nichols will be performing on their show “The Jump” on location from the finals “for weekday shows.”
Hours later, “The Jump” didn’t come out on Tuesday at 4pm as planned. Instead, two other ESPN presenters, Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, appeared on their show “Jalen and Jacoby”.
“The Jump” should be broadcast again on Wednesday as planned.
ESPN declined to comment.
On Monday, Nichols apologized for the controversy when she opened the show on “The Jump”.
“I don’t want to let this moment go by without saying how much I respect and appreciate our colleagues here at ESPN,” said Nichols.
“I am deeply sorry for disappointing those I hurt, especially Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be a part of this team,” she said.
On Sunday, The Times reported that Taylor’s colleagues were discussing in May whether they would refuse to appear at the “NBA Countdown” in protest of changes to production that they believed would benefit Nichols.
Mendelsohn apologized for his comment on the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements in an email to CNBC on Sunday after being asked about it.
“I made a stupid, careless comment rooted in privilege and I am sincerely sorry,” said Mendelsohn, who co-founded James’ Black Voter Advocacy Group More Than A Vote last year.
“I shouldn’t have said it or even thought it,” Mendelsohn said in an email.
“I work to support these movements and I know that the people affected by these problems are never exhausted or left with nothing. I need to keep reviewing my privilege and working to be a better ally, ”he added.