Some of ESPN’s top basketball analysts reportedly considered a boycott over the situation involving Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.
The New York Times reportedly on Nichols’ comments regarding Taylor and her NBA Finals promotion. Nichols expressed frustration at her demotion and Taylor’s promotion, suggesting it was diversity related.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols reportedly 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.”
When Taylor was made aware of Nichols’ comments, she reportedly refused to work on the air with her. ESPN seemed to comply with that, making all of Nichols’ NBA Countdown hits pre-recorded.
However, prior to this year’s playoffs, ESPN reportedly informed the NBA Countdown team that if Taylor refused to interact with Nichols, there would be no sideline reporter interactions at all.
This reportedly led to a heated pre-show call with some of ESPN’s top basketball talent. Threats were reportedly made.
On the pre-show call involving the stars of the show and production staff in both Los Angeles and New York, Taylor insisted to an executive that she be able to conduct live interviews with sideline reporters. She also brought up the recorded phone conversation. Wojnarowski jumped in and called Nichols a bad teammate. Rose said that ESPN had asked a lot from Black employees over the past year, but that he and other Black employees would extend their credibility to the company no longer.
Taylor, whom executives had asked numerous times to change her interactions with Nichols, said that the only people punished by ESPN’s actions were women of color: Johnson, herself and the three sideline reporters — Lisa Salters, Cassidy Hubbarth and Andrews — who received lesser assignments so that Nichols could have the lead sideline reporter role and now were not being allowed to appear on the show live.
All of this could reportedly lead to Taylor’s eventual departure from the network. Her contract is reportedly up during the NBA Finals.
Jalen Rose sent a clear message to ESPN on the air this week, a comment that rings louder now.
“Maria needs a raise,” Rose exclaimed.