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Rachel Nichols apologized to ESPN colleague Maria Taylor on air Monday after a leaked audio clip revealed Nichols, who is white, complaining about Taylor, who is black, getting Nichols’ NBA Finals hosting gig last year for what she believed were “diversity” reasons.
“So 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 a fantastic Finals,” Nichols said to open “The Jump” on ESPN 2. “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. How deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”
Former NBA players Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, Nichols’ co-stars on “The Jump,” expressed support for Nichols.
Clips obtained by the New York Times showed Nichols talking to Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James, while she was in the NBA bubble last July. Nichols was unaware her video camera was on while she was on the phone, and it was recorded and uploaded to an ESPN server.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in one clip. “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.
“I just want them to go somewhere else — it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing,” Nichols added.
Many ESPN employees were “outraged” by Nichols’ comments in the video, The Times reported. An ESPN employee who is a part of the network’s NBA coverage told The Times that Nichols not getting punished over her comments was “an active source of pain.”
Taylor’s ESPN contract is set to expire in roughly two weeks. The Post’s Andrew Marchand reported last week she had turned down an offer that would’ve escalated to nearly $5 million a year.
Taylor has not commented publicly since the release of the clip and declined comment to The Times.
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