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 NBA Playoffs on June 28, 2021 at the Phoenix Suns Arena in Phoenix, Arizona.
Michael Gonzales | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images
ESPN took action – a year later.
The sports broadcaster announced Tuesday that it had banked white NBA reporter Rachel Nichols from the side coverage of the League Final between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns amid excitement over her suggestion last year that her black colleague Maria Taylor got a hosting appearance for the 2020 final because of her race.
Hours later, ESPN was unable to air Nichols’ show “The Jump,” which was scheduled to start at 4pm on Tuesday. Instead, two ESPN presenters, Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, appeared on their show “Jalen and Jacoby”.
An ESPN spokesperson did not immediately comment on the absence of “The Jump”.
ESPN’s moves came two days later The New York Times published a bombshell report which details the circumstances of Nichols’ accidentally recorded comments in July 2020 and the backlash they received within the Walt Disney-own sports cable TV giant. Nichols was reportedly never disciplined over her comments on Taylor during the call.
Taylor will appear on “NBA Countdown” with fellow ESPN reporters for pre- and mid-term coverage of the NBA finals, ESPN said.
Malika Andrews will take care of the side coverage during the finale, the network said. Nichols took on this role during the pro basketball playoffs.
But Nichols will appear on “The Jump” on location from the finals “for weekdays shows,” ESPN said in its statement, hours before the network failed to air the show as promised on Tuesday.
The final begins Tuesday evening in Phoenix and will be broadcast on ABC.
“We believe that is [the] best decision for everyone involved to keep focus on the NBA finals. Rachel will continue to host The jump“Said the network in a published statement as it announced its line-up for coverage of the final.
On Monday, Nichols apologized for the controversy when she opened “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.”
On Sunday, the Times reported that Taylor’s colleagues were discussing in May whether they would refuse to appear on “NBA Countdown” in protest of changes to production that they believed would benefit Nichols.
On July 13, 2020, a phone call from her Florida hotel room, Nichols resented that Taylor Adam Mendelsohn, a longtime advisor to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, had received the 2020 pre-game and post-game finals slot.
That call was recorded on a video feed to ESPN’s Connecticut control room because Nichols didn’t know she hadn’t turned off the broadcast from a camera in her room.
In that call, Nichols Mendelsohn, who is white, suggested that Taylor got the spot because of her breed.
“If you have to give her more to do because you are feeling pressure because of your shitty long-term record in terms of diversity – which, by the way, I know personally from the female side – then just do it. Just find it somewhere else. You won’t find it from me or take my thing away, “said Nichols.
According to the TImes report, Mendelsohn said shortly afterwards in that call: “I don’t know. I am exhausted. I have nothing left between Me Too and Black Lives Matter. “
Nichols laughed at his remark.
Shortly after the video was broadcast to Connecticut without Nichols’ knowledge, a tape of the call circulated within ESPN.
Mendelsohn apologized for that comment 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.