Who is Rachel Nichols? White ESPN reporter claims colleague hosted NBA finals as she's Black
ESPN is under fire after journalist Rachel Nichols was heard criticizing the network’s choice to tap a Black female colleague, Maria Taylor, to host its NBA coverage last year.
The New York Times revealed an alleged heavy internal conflict at ESPN stemming from comments about diversity that NBA sideline reporter and 'The Jump' host Rachel Nichols made about her colleague Maria Taylor, NBA and NFL reporter and the host of "NBA Countdown." The comments were made by Nichols in July 2020 after ESPN told her that Taylor, who is Black, would be hosting coverage of the NBA Finals instead of her. Nichols asked for advice from LeBron James' longtime advisor Adam Mendelsohn and James' agent Rich Paul on a call that was reportedly unintentionally recorded because Nichols hadn't turned her video camera off.
During the call, Nichols can be heard saying that she feels like Taylor is only being preferred over her due to ESPN's long and disturbing record on diversity. “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world, she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in July 2020. “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.”
The conversation was recorded and saved on one of ESPN's servers, which various employees have access to. One employee recorded the conversation on their cellphone and sent it to others within the company, who then sent it to more employees. The call was ultimately leaked to Deadspin and the Times. Thus far, that employee is the only one to be disciplined over the incident, as Nichols said to the Times that ESPN told her that "the content of the conversation didn't warrant any discipline."
"The only person known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a digital video producer who told ESPN human resources that she had sent the video to Taylor." Johnson, who is Black, was suspended for two weeks without pay, and later was given less beneficial tasks at work.
Nichols stated that she was "shaken" that a "fellow employee" would record and share a video of her private hotel room conversation, gave a statement to the Times along with responses to their questions. Nichols said she was frustrated and was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.” But she added: “My own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here — if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her.” Nichols said she reached out to Taylor to apologize through texts and phone calls. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Nichols said.
Who is Rachel Nichols?
Born on October 18, 1973, Rachel Michele Nichols is currently a television host for ESPN, a sports reporter, and an anchor. She anchors the NBA discussion show called 'The Jump', weekdays on ESPN, it covers news and stories from around the league and highlights a panel of NBA critics and players. Nichols started her career as a sports journalist in the 1990s when she started writing for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel sports page.
She later started before covering the NHL's Washington Capitals for the Washington Post and worked there for eight years, before quitting in 2004. She joined ESPN in 2004, where she became a regular part of SportsCenter, Sunday NFL Countdown and Monday Night Countdown. She later started hosting regularly on the network's NFL and NBA coverage. Nichols was also a correspondent for E:60 and worked as the sideline reporter on a number of Monday Night Football broadcasts.
In 2013, she quit ESPN and joined CNN and started hosting 'Unguarded with Rachel Nichols' in October of that year. The show would change from a regular series to an occasional special by October of the subsequent year. Sports Illustrated called Nichols "the country's most impactful and prominent female sports journalist." She was critically acclaimed for her tough questioning of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal and furthermore for confronting boxer Floyd Mayweather on his history of domestic violence. At that time, Nichols also worked the sidelines for Turner Sports' NBA on the TNT program from 2013 to 2016, working both the regular season and playoff games. In 2016, she returned to ESPN and started co-hosting 'The Jump'. In 2019, she was named host of NBA Saturday Primetime on ABC and the NBA Finals on ABC. She also became a guest-host on the podcast 'Pardon My Take' as well as on the TV show 'Pardon the Interruption'.