Maria Taylor and ESPN are divorcing — and she is headed to NBC and will cover the Olympics, The Post has learned. Taylor, 34, leaves ESPN just weeks after the existence of a year-old private recording of leaked comments was reported by the New York Times in which fellow NBA host/reporter Rachel Nichols alleged ESPN gave Taylor the Finals hosting job to make up for what Nichols described as the network’s “crappy longtime record on diversity.”
ESPN announced on Wednesday that NBA and NFL analyst and host Maria Taylor is officially leaving the network. According to the statement released by ESPN, Taylor and the network couldn't come to an agreement on a contract extension. Her final assignment was Tuesday night's coverage of Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Taylor also commented on her departure from the network: “So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
ESPN and Maria Taylor have worked out an agreement for her to continue working through the NBA Finals despite the host's contract expiring this month, sources tell The Athletic. ESPN declined to comment. Taylor's contract is reportedly set to expire on July 20 — the date of Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Game 7, if necessary, is scheduled for July 22.
ESPN’s Maria Taylor is nearing a possible deal with rival NBC Sports, sources tell Front Office Sports. The rising star could become the new host of “Football Night in America” as Mike Tirico transitions into the play-by-play post long held by Al Michaels.
ESPN has a contract on the table for Taylor in the neighborhood of $3 million per year, The Post has learned. The deal represents roughly three times more than her current $1 million per year. Sources said Taylor has interest from both NBC and Amazon, while CBS, Fox and TNT are not involved.
The National Association of Black Journalists has called for a meeting with leaders at Disney and demand change over a "toxic ESPN culture that appears to promote bias," the release said. The request comes in the wake of the The New York Times' report published Sunday about a conversation ESPN host Rachel Nichols had with media and athlete adviser Adam Mendelsohn in July 2020.
ESPN responded to NABJ but did not address Nichols's behavior directly. "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,” an ESPN spokesperson said, per the release. “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.”
After an odd, ultra-brief hiatus, Rachel Nichols is back on ESPN. Nichols, a white NBA reporter, returned Wednesday with her show “The Jump” after an unannounced, one-day break amid furor over her race-related remark last year about a Black colleague, Maria Taylor. “There’s so much so talk about today,” Nichols said without irony early in Wednesday’s broadcast of the basketball-focused show, which began as scheduled from Phoenix at 4 p.m. ET.
ESPN had noted Tuesday that Nichols would continue hosting her show “The Jump” on weekdays during the Finals from the sites of the games. “We believe this is [the] best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host ‘The Jump,’ ” ESPN said in a statement Tuesday. That may be true, from now on, but it was not the case hours after Tuesday’s announcement. Instead, “The Jump,” and Nichols, failed to appear as scheduled.
This, obviously, is going to have major implications going forward for ESPN, much less for Maria Taylor, whose contract is set to expire. Nichols certainly came across as sincere today, but it’s hard to imagine that apology is going to end the discourse surrounding this, especially given the NBA Finals is set to begin tomorrow night.
Perkins and Jefferson, however, also acknowledged the fact that Nichols’ actions had adverse effects, especially on Taylor. While they gave their support to Nichols, they also addressed the issue at large, with Perkins saying everyone should be more responsible. “I also know Maria Taylor. She’s a great person as well, very, very talented, hardworking, and I also feel like she deserves every opportunity that’s presented in her way. My only hope is we have a commitment to support each other through this process.”
Jefferson echoed Perkins’ remarks, adding what happened should be a teaching moment for everyone. “I’ve known Rachel for 20 years. Rachel and our entire group here have had some very difficult conversations over our time here, and those conversations end here, we will continue those uncomfortable conversations. No one is excused. This doesn’t just go away. We have to learn and understand and become better for each other.”
Rachel Nichols has apologized to fellow ESPN colleague, Maria Taylor, on national television -- this after a bombshell NYT report -- and ex-NBA stars Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson were there to add their two cents.
Right off the bat, RN acknowledged she didn't like that she'd become the story ... but owned up to it nonetheless, saying she was deeply sorry to anyone she let down with her comments, especially Maria. Rachel added she was grateful to be part of the ESPN team.
Nichols on that tape suggested Taylor was awarded that gig to Nichols’ disadvantage because Taylor is Black — and because ESPN was under pressure to have more racial diversity in its lineup of on-air talent. In his first comments on the statements about Black Lives Matter and Me Too, Mendelsohn told CNBC, “I made a stupid, careless comment rooted in privilege and I am sincerely sorry.” “I shouldn’t have said it or even thought it,” Mendelsohn said in an email. “I work to support these movements and know that the people affected by these issues never get to be exhausted or have nothing left. I have to continue to check my privilege and work to be a better ally.”
The Times reported that he told the newspaper for its article, “I will share what I believed then and still believe to be true. Maria [Taylor] deserved and earned the position, and Rachel [Nichols] 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,” Mendelsohn said. “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.”
Amin Elhassan: I wouldnt have been on The Jump if it werent for @Rachel__Nichols & I know the same is true for T-Mac & Stak. When they tried to get funnystyle w/ my contract, she stood up for me & made sure I was treated right. She’s been an ally (not just to me) in public & behind closed doors
Amin Elhassan: Pls note this isnt a dismissal of Maria or her feelings. She’s great & deserving of everything she accomplished in her career..but the convo that needs to occur is why is there a Highlander “There Can Only Be One” mentality when it comes to women & high profile positions at ESPN
Coach Rick Carlisle should have his staff rounded out within the next week, and there’s a strong chance that Calbert Cheaney will remain with the Indiana Pacers, a league source familiar with the situation told IndyStar. As the N.B.A. playoffs started in May, the stars of ESPN’s marquee basketball show, “NBA Countdown,” discussed whether they would refuse to appear on it. They were objecting to a production edict from executives that they believed was issued to benefit a sideline reporter and fellow star, Rachel Nichols, despite comments she had made suggesting that the host of “NBA Countdown,” Maria Taylor, had gotten that job because she is Black. Nichols is white.
It had declined to discipline Nichols despite fury throughout the company over her remark, which she made during a phone conversation nearly a year ago after learning that she would not host coverage during the 2020 N.B.A. finals, as she had been expecting. “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols 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.”
ESPN has been trying, and often failing, to deal with the scandal for months. But a fast-approaching deadline is forcing the network to show at least some of its cards. Taylor’s contract expires during the N.B.A. finals, which start on Tuesday between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks, yet few substantive steps have been taken toward a new deal even though Pitaro has identified Taylor as one of ESPN’s rising stars. Whether or not ESPN and Taylor agree on a contract, the internal damage from the past year has been substantial.
Unbeknown to Nichols, her video camera was on, and the call was being recorded to a server at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. It is not clear why her camera was on, but most people at ESPN believe that Nichols, using new technology during a pandemic, did not turn it off properly. It was effectively the remote pandemic version of a hot mic incident.
At least one of these people watched the video on the server, recorded it on a cellphone and shared it with others. Soon, more copies of the conversation were spreading around ESPN, and within hours it reached ESPN executives, in part because of some of the comments from Mendelsohn.
“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 during the conversation. “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.”
In response to questions from The Times, Nichols said she was frustrated and was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.” But she added: “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.” Nichols said she reached out to Taylor to apologize through texts and phone calls. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Nichols said.
Nichols said the recording of the video by an ESPN colleague was hurtful. “I was shaken that a fellow employee would do this, and that other employees, including some of those within the N.B.A. project, had no remorse about passing around a spy video of a female co-worker alone in her hotel room,” she said, adding, “I would in no way suggest that the way the comments came to light should grant a free pass on them being hurtful to other people.”
Taylor, who had recently gained widespread acclaim for her on-air comments about the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, was fed up because she had also been disparaged recently by at least one other ESPN colleague for speaking about Floyd. She told executives, including Pitaro, the company’s president, that she would not finish covering the season. “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,” she wrote in an email to ESPN executives, including Pitaro, two weeks after the incident, which was obtained by The Times. “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.”
To avoid having Taylor and Nichols interact, all of Nichols’s appearances on “NBA Countdown” this season were prerecorded, but often in a way to make segments appear as if they aired live. Appearances by other sideline reporters were a mixture of live and prerecorded.
ESPN declined to say whether any employees were disciplined, and Nichols said that she was told that the “content of the conversation did not warrant any discipline.” The only person known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a digital video producer who told ESPN human resources that she had sent the video to Taylor. Johnson, who is Black, was suspended for two weeks without pay, and later was given less desirable tasks at work.
December 3, 2021 | 6:31 pm EST Update
Quinton Mayo: There’s a strong possibility Rui Hachimura doesn’t travel on the upcoming road trip, Wes Unseld Jr. says. WUJ says that Rui is still in “phase 1” of his return to play plan, and hasn’t started 5v5 contact. As I’ve mentioned before, Rui may not return until end of year/January.
Ohm Youngmisuk: Steve Nash says he would like to get Nic Claxton some minutes tonight and tomorrow night. Nash says his rotations “are pretty solid right now” but they would like to give Claxton “a chance to get back in the lineup” and work his way back.
Michael Singer: Asked Michael Malone about this “borderline ridiculous” road trip. MM: “Take borderline out.” Me: “Do you pack a couple extra pairs of underwear?” MM: “Who said I wear underwear?” Me: “Never assume anything.” MM: “You should never bc you make an ass out of you and you.”
The film was penned by Ivan Turkovic Krnjak (“Lovebox”) and is being produced by Ljubo Zdjelarević and Ivor Šiber at Zagreb-based Kinoteka. The film will shoot next year in Croatia, Germany, and in the U.S. across Portland and New Jersey. It will be released in 2023 on the 30th anniversary of Petrović’ death.
December 3, 2021 | 5:35 pm EST Update
Shams Charania: Free agent Wesley Matthews plans to sign a deal with the Bucks, sources tell @TheAthletic @Stadium. The 12-year veteran, who spent last season with the Los Angeles Lakers, is set to return to Milwaukee.