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The ESPN drama surrounding on-air talent Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor reached the desk of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Tuesday, moments before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
Silver told reporters during a press conference he thought it was “disheartening” to see Nichols and Taylor “pitted against each other.”
“They’re both fantastic at what they do. This is a really unfortunate situation,” he added.
Nichols was taken off sideline reporter duty for the NBA Finals earlier Tuesday. The latest episode of Nichols’ daily NBA program, “The Jump,” was also pushed to Wednesday. Malika Andrews will be on the sideline for the entire Finals.
Nichols was the sideline reporter in the Orlando bubble for last season’s NBA Finals. She replaced Doris Burke last year after Burke had spent 11 years covering the Finals from the sideline.
Nichols removal came after a dig the 16-year veteran of the all-sports channel took at colleague Taylor surfaced in a New York Times story over the weekend. Taylor will be the pregame and halftime host for the NBA Finals on “NBA Countdown” alongside former players Jalen Rose and Jay Williams.
“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host The Jump,” ESPN said in a statement.
The clip in The New York Times showed Nichols complaining about Taylor getting Nichols’ NBA Finals hosting gig last year over what she suggested was “diversity” reasons.
Nichols apologized on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday and was defended by co-hosts Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson in the process.
“So, the first thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t be the story. And I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals,” Nichols said.
“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.”
The New York Times clip showed Nichols complaining about Taylor getting the gig. She was talking to LeBron James’ adviser Adam Mendelsohn and was unaware she was being recorded.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said. “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.
“I just want them to go somewhere else — it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.
Nichols, who is White, initially joined ESPN in 2004 and was a regular on the network’s flagship show “SportsCenter” as well as the NFL and NBA shows. She left ESPN for CNN in 2013 and was seen doing sideline reporting for TNT’s NBA broadcasts from 2013 to 2016. She re-joined ESPN in 2016. Her husband’s stepmother is Diane Sawyer.
Taylor, who is Black, had primarily been seen on ESPN’s coverage of college football since joining the company in 2013. She started hosting “NBA Countdown” in 2019.
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