Rachel Nichols has been exposed for making comments about her Black colleague Maria Taylor being a diversity hire.
Approximately, a year ago (mid-July 2020) Rachel Nichols was informed by ESPN that she would not host coverage during the 2020 NBA finals, as she’s done in the past, instead the network opted to replace her with Maria Taylor, a rising star broadcaster.
Due to coronavirus protocols, Nichols was confined to her room at the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida for seven days before the NBA 2020 season resumed.
She had video equipment staged in her room so she could continue to appear on ESPN’s “The Jump,” a daily ESPN show that she has hosted since 2016.
On July 13, 2020, Nichols reached out to Adam Mendelsohn, whose known as the longtime adviser to the Los Angeles Lakers, he also advises LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul.
She called Mendelsohn to request an interview with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and she also got his advice on her feeling that ESPN executives were advancing Taylor at her expense.
I just want them to go somewhere else… it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.
She also told Mendelsohn she felt Maria was given the 2020 NBA Finals gig because ESPN was “feeling pressure” about racial diversity.
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.
At one point during the conversation, Mendelsohn, whose a prominent political and communication strategist who worked as a communications director and deputy chief of staff for Arnold Schwarzenegger, then Governor of California; and is the co-founder for LeBron James voting rights group, More Than a Vote, was heard saying, “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left.”
Nichols can be heard on the audio laughing after Mendelsohn made the comment.
Unbeknownst to Nichols her video camera was on during the conversation, and the call was being recorded to a server at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn.
Many ESPN employees have access to the server as part of their daily work flow, and one employee watched the video on the server, recorded it on their cellphone and shared it with their co-workers.
Listen to the audio below:
The only disciplinary action that has taken place from the incident is ESPN’s two week suspension of Kayla Johnson, a digital video producer, who told ESPN’s Human Resources department that she sent the video to Maria Taylor.
Johnson was later given less desirable tasks at the network, and she recently left ESPN.
Many Black ESPN employees have expressed outrage since the video leaked, and they feel the incident confirmed their suspicions that outwardly supportive white people talk differently behind closed doors.
Most people on Twitter expressed the same sentiments.
Scoop the tweets below:
Maria Taylor responded to the incident via email:
I will not call myself a victim, but I certainly have felt victimized and I do not feel as though my complaints have been taken seriously.
In fact, the first time I have heard from HR after 2 incidents of racial insensitivity was to ask if I leaked Rachel’s tape to the media. I would never do that.
Following the leaked audio, Taylor told ESPN executives the only way she would host “NBA Countdown” during the playoffs, this year, was if Nichols did not appear on the show.
ESPN agreed to the request, but they still allowed Nichols to make short appearances without interacting with Taylor.
In an attempt to maintain his political connections and NBA relationships Mendelsohn made a statement in support of Taylor in stark contrast to the opinions he shared in the leaked conversation with Nichols.
I will share what I believed then and still believe to be true. Maria deserved and earned the position, and Rachel must respect it.
Maria deserved it because of her work, and ESPN recognized that like many people and companies in America, they must intentionally change.
Just because Maria got the job does not mean Rachel shouldn’t get paid what she deserves. Rachel and Maria should not be forced into a zero-sum game by ESPN, and Rachel needed to call them out.
Taylor was asked numerous times to change her stance on working with Nichols, but Taylor stood firm and said that the the only people punished by ESPN’s actions were women of color: Kayla Johnson, herself and the three sideline reporters, Lisa Salters, Cassidy Hubbarth and Malika Andrews, who were taken off the live show so Nichols could have the lead sideline reporter role.
Taylor’s contract with ESPN expires this year during the NBA Finals, that start on Tuesday, between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns, and I will not be surprised at all if Taylor moves on to bigger and better.
Source: The New York Times