ESPN has removed Rachel Nichols from the sidelines for the NBA Finals, the network announced on Tuesday.
The move was made in the wake of a New York Times report about demeaning comments that Nichols made around a year ago about network host Maria Taylor during a private conversation. Nichols did not realize that the video was being recorded. The video was then disseminated by an ESPN employee.
In her place, the network will have Malika Andrews on the sidelines for the Finals. ESPN said Nichols will continue to host “The Jump,” but then canceled the program for Tuesday. The plan, at least at the moment, was for it to return on Wednesday.
“We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” ESPN said in a statement.
In the taped conversation from last July, Nichols said that ESPN might have her relinquish her contractually agreed upon NBA Finals hosting job to Taylor because the network was feeling pressure to be more diverse.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in Disney hotel room, unaware her camera was being recorded back at ESPN’s Bristol headquarters.
“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.”
She added, “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 expressed remorse in the Times’ article that published on Sunday and then opened “The Jump” with another apology Monday.
“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 the ESPN program.
“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 is definitely part of the story, but she won’t be covering the Finals.
Meanwhile, the story came out with Taylor’s contract due to expire during the Finals. Last week, The Post reported Taylor, who makes a million dollars per year, has asked for a big increase and desires to be paid in Stephen A. Smith’s $8 million per year range.
A year ago, ESPN had offered a contract that would have eventually reached near $5 million per year towards its conclusion. With ESPN currently cutting salaries, the two sides have been far apart with NBC emerging as a possible destination for Taylor.
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