NBC courts ESPN's Maria Taylor for Olympics coverage after Rachel Nichols racism scandal: Sources
American TV host Maria Taylor, who currently works for ESPN, is reportedly being pursued by NBC. The New York Post reported that NBC wants to sign Taylor to be part of its team covering the Tokyo Olympics that begins on July 23.
The tabloid reported that Taylor, who is currently hosting the NBA Finals for ESPN, will complete her contract with the network on July 20, the day Game 6 is scheduled. The report says that Game 7 is scheduled for next Thursday, July 22.
No final decision has been made by Taylor, but one is expected soon, the tabloid reported, adding that ESPN has offered Taylor a contract of close to $3 million per year, citing sources. Taylor is nearing a possible deal with NBC Sports, sources told Front Office Sports. “The deal’s at the half-yard line. But that can still be a long way in contract negotiations,” said a source. Talks could still fall apart — or ESPN could raise its offer,” the source said.
The Post also reported that NBC and Amazon had an interest in Taylor and that Taylor could succeed Mike Tirico as the host of ‘Football Night in America’ after this season. Tirico is expected to replace Al Michaels as the main play-by-player on ‘Sunday Night Football’ in 2022-23. Sources said the Amazon-NBC contract is likely to be a three-year deal with Amazon having the option to extend it to five.
This courtship comes in the wake of The New York Times’ story that contained a year-old video of fellow ESPN NBA host/reporter Rachel Nichols saying in a private conversation that she was going to lose her job as host of the NBA Finals because ESPN wanted to rectify its poor record on diversity.
Nichols said in July 2020, while talking to Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James, from inside the NBA bubble: “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. 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.”
Nichols was unaware her video camera was on while she was on the phone, and it was recorded and uploaded to an ESPN server. On July 5, Nichols apologized on air.
Nichols said, "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. 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."
Following this, ESPN reportedly planned to examine the exit interviews of recently departed employees, the chairman of the Disney-backed outlet told staffers in a memo. “Change takes time, and I ask for your partnership on this journey,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said to employees in the memo, which was circulated last week, Variety reported on July 13. “Know that our leadership is committed to accelerating our efforts and working toward a collective goal — an ESPN where everyone feels they belong.”
Pitaro said, “I do want to be clear on one thing: Maria Taylor was selected as ‘NBA Countdown’ host last year because she earned it. Please know our commitment is that assignments and opportunities at ESPN are based on merit and any concerns, remarks, or inferences that suggest otherwise have been and will continue to be addressed.”
Pitaro added that executives at the network planned to focus on issues around diversity and inclusion at an employee town hall later in July, “and we will continue to have focused conversations with the Black and African American community at ESPN in the coming weeks. As always, we value an open and honest dialogue.”