Controversy is ripe at ESPN as host Rachel Nichols (who is white) seemingly accused ESPN of promoting Maria Taylor (who is black) for no reason other than her race. The situation played out in last season’s NBA bubble, where both women worked as reporters and hosts for ESPN. Taylor received the NBA Finals hosting job. On the other hand, ESPN asked Nichols to be a sideline reporter. In the reporting world, hosting pays more and is generally considered the “better” job.
After the job assignments, Nichols reached out to Adam Mendelsohn, an advisor to LeBron James. It was her conversation with Mendelsohn which drew the controversy. Her video camera remained on as she called him, most likely as she simply forgot to turn it off.
As a result, ESPN headquarters had access to the camera’s recordings, and someone at ESPN leaked the conversation.
When talking to Mendelsohn, she blamed ESPN for giving Taylor the job over her. It wasn’t her accusations of favoritism that drew controversy, but her reasoning for that alleged favoritism.
If you need to give her more things to do because you’re feeling pressure about your crappy, longtime record on diversity, which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it. Go for it, just find it somewhere else, you’re not going to find it with me.Rachel Nichols
The conversation also showed Nichols wishing Taylor success, which only divided opinion even more. Sports fans are unsurprisingly split on the topic. Some see Nichols’ comments as racist, while others support her views and see nothing wrong with it.
Until now, the exact context of Nichols’ conversation remained confidential. Last year, ESPN called the recording “indefensible and an intrusion on Rachel’s privacy,” and it was known that she had been recorded while in the bubble. However, the new context of that phone call only just surfaced through a leaked audiotape.
As the 2021 NBA Finals begin, Nichols’ contract at ESPN expires during the series. Whether she gets a new contract at the company is still unknown.