Will Maria Taylor join NBC Sports? Host leaves ESPN after NBA finals amid diversity drama
ESPN host Maria Taylor quit the network on Wednesday, July 21. Taylor's move comes just weeks after remarks by another colleague, Rachel Nichols suggesting that 'Taylor was promoted because she is Black' caused a furore on Social media and elsewhere.
According to ESPN, Taylor's contract ended Tuesday, July 20 and the night's NBA Finals telecast was Taylor's final performance. ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement, "Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve." The statement further added, "While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
Speaking of her departure from the network, Taylor said in a statement, "So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family, the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud." Taylor covered Basketball and college Football for ESPN. She was with ESPN for seven years.
There have not been clear reports on where Taylor is headed next, but she might be close to striking a deal with NBC Sports, reports say. New York Post reported on Wednesday, July 21 that NBC wants Taylor to join the network by July 23, just in time for the Olympics coverage. Taylor could also reportedly participate in NBC's 'Football Night in America' broadcast and Notre Dame football assignments. It is not clear at the moment how much Taylor is offered by NBC. However, some reports did suggest that she was offered $3 million by ESPN to stay.
Nichols' statement about Taylor grabbed attention in early July when The New York Times reported on a recording of the conversation. In the said recording, Nichols, who is White, is heard suggesting that Taylor got her job hosting the marquee program NBA Countdown during the NBA finals because of her ethnicity. "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," Nichols said in the recording. "Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away." Nichols was immediately removed from her assignment after the recording became public.
According to The New York Times, who reported on ESPN's internal response two weeks before Taylor's contract was set to expire, ESPN didn't handle the situation well, making promises to Taylor that it almost immediately broke.