ESPN takes Nichols off NBA Finals duty after leaked comments

Jul 5, 2021, 11:47 PM | Updated: Jul 6, 2021, 7:04 pm

PHOENIX (AP) — ESPN replaced Rachel Nichols as its sideline reporter for the NBA Finals following a report detailing critical comments she made about Black colleague Maria Taylor.

The network announced Tuesday that Malika Andrews would handle that role for the series between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.

Nichols, who is white, has been the sideline reporter for its top national games this season and for last year’s NBA Finals. But the switch was made after The New York Times reported Sunday on her comments last year, when she learned Taylor would lead the network’s studio show instead of her during the league’s restart at Walt Disney World.

In a phone conversation that was accidentally recorded and the Times obtained, Nichols said: “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.”

The Times’ report said the show’s crew was angry with Nichols, who apologized Monday while hosting “The Jump.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the situation was disheartening, particularly because it pitted two women in the industry against each other.

“I think part of the problem is that, as I said earlier, when people can’t get in a room and talk through these issues, this seemingly has fostered now for a full year,” Silver said.

“I mean, this is an incident that happened I guess when Rachel was in the bubble a year ago, and I would have thought that in the past year, maybe through some incredibly difficult conversations, that ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not.”

Nichols will continue to host that daily weekday basketball show onsite during the finals.

Taylor will again host the NBA Finals pregame and halftime shows, though the New York Post reported that her contract ends later this month and she had rejected an extension.

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ESPN takes Nichols off NBA Finals duty after leaked comments