The National Association of Black Journalists is “outraged” with the developing situation between ESPN, Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.
Earlier this week, the New York Times reported on Nichols’ 2020 comments, in which she questions ESPN’s decision to promote Taylor to NBA Countdown hosting duties for the NBA Finals. Nichols’ comments were leaked via a taped recording inside of the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida last year.
“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.”
Taylor is hosting NBA Countdown during the Finals this year, while Nichols has been taken off the show. Nichols was removed from sideline reporter duties, though she continues to host The Jump for ESPN.
Nichols apologized for her comments earlier this week.
“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 the (NBA) Finals,” Nichols said. “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, [and] how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and for how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”
The NABJ released a statement on Wednesday, calling Nichols’ comments “disappointing” and “disparaging,” while demanding a meeting with ESPN.
“The NABJ Board of Directors is disturbed to learn the details of this situation and what appeared to be a lack of accountability and a desire by ESPN to provide accommodations for a white employee who mocked diversity and a well-qualified co-worker while seemingly ignoring how Taylor and others who later heard the conversation may have been affected,” said NABJ President Dorothy Tucker. “The silence and apparent inaction by ESPN leaders over the last year is deafening and, as a result, NABJ is requesting a meeting with Bob Iger, executive chairman at The Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN; Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company; and Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN.”
ESPN reportedly released the following statement to the NABJ:
“We’re proud to lead the sports media industry in making significant progress to develop and place diverse talent on-air and in key leadership positions. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity are top priorities at ESPN. We recognize more work needs to be done, and we will continue our commitment to creating a culture that reflects our values. Our partnership with NABJ is an integral part of that commitment.”