ESPN host apologizes to black colleague after secret recording busts her slamming network for diversity quota

ESPN’s Rachel Nichols was forced to apologize on Monday after audio was leaked of her complaining about a black colleague taking her spot covering the 2020 NBA Finals.

Nichols was secretly recorded making statements last summer about fellow analyst Maria Taylor, but only recently were her remarks made public, according to The New York Times.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said while unknowingly being recorded. “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,” she added. “This job is in my contract in writing.”

The Times claims that the conversation occurred between Nichols and Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James. Mendelsohn had told Nichols that her network, ESPN, was a “snake pit”, and that she should consider jumping ship altogether.

“Those same people — who are, like, generally white conservative male Trump voters — is part of the reason I’ve had a hard time at ESPN,” Nichols told Mendelsohn. “I basically finally just outworked everyone for so long that they had to recognize it. I don’t want to then be a victim of them trying to play catch-up for the same damage that affected me in the first place, you know what I mean. So I’m trying to just be nice.”

Following the leak, Nichols issued an apology on ESPN’s “The Jump,” in which she expressed remorse as well as respect for her coworker, who recently turned down a $5 million contract extension in spite of the network’s massive downsizing.

“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 on Monday. “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.”

Nichols’ co-hosts and former NBA players Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson voiced their support for Nichols, but The Times reports the situation has revealed a divide within the network, with several employees expressing displeasure over the lack of punishment. Social media users were also surprised that ESPN took no action against Nichols and many took offense to her coworkers defending her.

“It’s indefensible and an intrusion on Rachel’s privacy,” ESPN told Deadspin in 2020 when they became aware of the recordings. “As for the substance of the conversation, it is not reflective of our decision-making on staffing assignments for the NBA, which has largely been driven by the circumstances of the pandemic.”

Maria Taylor has yet to make a statement about Nichols’ recordings and her subsequent apology.


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