The first week of July has been exceptionally hectic at ESPN. Not only is the network covering the 2021 NBA Finals, preparing for the Wimbledon final and awaiting the start of the Tokyo Olympics, but ESPN is also handling an internal debacle. During Independence Day weekend, the New York Times issued an extensive report that included compromising recordings of The Jump host Rachel Nichols. While in the NBA bubble last summer, Nichols was recorded having a conversation with communications strategist Adam Mendelsohn about her colleague, Maria Taylor. The popular ESPN personality insinuated that Taylor received an opportunity to host NBA Countdown during the NBA Finals because of her race rather than her talent and work ethic.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols told communication strategist Adam Mendelsohn.
“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.”
Many were quick to call Nichols out for her offensive comments. However, the two people affected by her comments, Kayla Johnson and Maria Taylor, have decided not to publicly address Nichols or her comments. With that said, Nichols did take to Twitter to offer a bit of insight into where her head is at in the midst of this debacle.
"During the dark times, I always remember that I am in this position to open doors and light the path that others walk down. I’ve taken some punches but that just means I’m still in the fight. Remember to lift as you climb and always keep rising," Taylor tweeted along with pictures of herself and Black colleagues she's worked with over the years.
Despite pushback from Nichols, Taylor will continue to host NBA Countdown during the 2021 NBA Finals. In addition, Nichols was replaced by Malika Andrews, who will handle sideline coverage during the Bucks-Suns championship series. Game three of the NBA Finals is set to air on ESPN on July 11 at 8 p.m. ET.