Disparaging comments made by ESPN host Rachel Nichols and leaked from a recorded phone conversation are reportedly causing an uproar at the sports network.
The New York Times is reporting details of a leaked Nichols conversation with Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul. In the talk, Mendelsohn warned Nichols that ESPN is a “snake pit,” and she should be careful.
In the New York Times story, an audio clip taken from a video has Nichols, who is white, exasperated over Maria Taylor, who is Black, being given NBA Finals hosting duties last year. Nichols is the host of the daily NBA show The Jump, while Taylor is an analyst and host in multiple sports.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said. “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.”
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“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 said.
The Times reported that several ESPN employees who are Black believe the conversation indicates that things said in private reflect a non-supportive attitude toward them that’s never publicly stated.
“Those same people — who are, like, generally white conservative male Trump voters — is part of the reason I’ve had a hard time at ESPN,” Nichols said on tape. “I basically finally just outworked everyone for so long that they had to recognize it. I don’t want to then be a victim of them trying to play catch-up for the same damage that affected me in the first place, you know what I mean. So I’m trying to just be nice.”
ESPN declined to comment to the Times, and Taylor has not responded.
Nichols said in the story she was expressing herself to a friend about her frustration, not with Taylor, but ESPN.
“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,” she said.
Taylor is currently negotiating for a new contract, and reportedly wants to be among the highest-paid personalities at the network. Her current deal expires July 20.