Rachel Nichols controversy: Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson slammed for 'damage control'

Nichols opened 'The Jump' by apologizing for leaked comments on colleague Maria Taylor, but Twitter was furious Perkins and Jefferson spoke longer


                            Rachel Nichols controversy: Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson slammed for 'damage control'
Rachel Nichols, Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson pose for a photo in Phoenix, Arizona (@rachel_nichols/Instagram)

A day after the New York Times exposed 'The Jump' host Rachel Nichols, the ESPN host has now apologized on air. Nichols spent the first few seconds of the program on July 5 apologizing to colleague Maria Taylor, who was the focus of Nichols' comments. However, it wasn't her apology that caught social media users' eyes. Instead, they were left fuming at Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson, who waded into a controversy they had no involvement in.

Nichols made headlines on July 4 after it was revealed she was at the heart of a massive internal conflict at ESPN. Nichols was apparently not very happy that the network had tapped Taylor to lead NBA coverage. Reportedly, Nichols asked for advice from LeBron James' longtime advisor Adam Mendelsohn and James' agent Rich Paul on the matter. The story comes at a difficult time for ESPN, after Dan Le Batard left the network in December 2020 over a similarly controversial hiring decision. 

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In April 2021, ESPN fired NBA analyst and former basketball legend Paul Pierce after he posted a racy Instagram live. If 'The Jump' was hoping to put the controversy to bed, they have managed just the exact opposite at this trying time. Fans were fuming at Perkins and Jefferson, who clearly gave the controversy more air time than was necessary.



 

 

Why are fans angry?

Fans' anger stems from the opening segment of 'The Jump', which Nichols usually reserves for an NBA-centric monologue. Instead, she said, "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."

That brief apology was followed by comments from Perkins and Jefferson, who rather than focus on sports chose to address Nichols' comments. Perkins thanked Nichols for "taking responsibility for your actions," and even offered a sort of endorsement. He said, "I know your heart, great person, great individual." Jefferson then picked up, adding, "Rachel and our entire group here have had some very difficult conversations over this time period, and those conversations don’t end here. We will continue to have uncomfortable conversations. No one is excused."

Nichols then closed by saying, "Thank you guys, both, for being with me here today." The whole segment lasted just under two minutes and can be viewed in this tweet posted by Outkick journalist Meg Turner. 



 

 

'Nobody worse than perk right now'

Twitter was quick to slam the former NBA stars for wading in on the controversy, rather than sticking to the sport. One user tweeted "LMAOOOOO how Perk and RJ talkin more than Rachel. N----- done scooped up the baton and ran w it like a goddamn relay race." Another joked, "Perk spoke longer than Rachel Nichols during her opening segment on The Jump. ESPN said: give a somewhat tearful sound bite apology to Maria and then lob it over to the Black guys to carry our water on damage control."



 



 

 

"There was no chance in the world that those execs at ESPN were going to let Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins condemn Rachel Nichols on The Jump today. ESPN should’ve pulled Rachel from the air for the rest of the playoffs but they didn’t so Perk & RJ were in a jam today," one person commented. Another tweeted, "They really shouldn’t have had Big Perk or Richard Jefferson say anything. Espn put two black men in bad spots about something that had nothing to do with them."



 



 

 

"Nobody worse than perk right now," one person said. Another tweeted, "My face when Richard Jefferson said, “Nobody is excused. She’s not excused. I’m not excused. Perk isn’t excused.” Bro you and Perk didn’t even do anything lol."



 



 

 

It's unclear if Nichols will issue a lengthier apology, perhaps on her personal social media page after the matter. From the way it was handled, it appears as if ESPN simply wants to brush it over, and move on. So far, Taylor hasn't responded to Nichols' apology. 

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