- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Rachel Nichols will not be included in ESPN’s coverage of the NBA Finals as a sideline reporter, the network announced Tuesday, two days after a leaked audio recording of Nichols making a demeaning comment about colleague Maria Taylor was published by The New York Times.

Nichols had initially been scheduled to be the sideline reporter for the NBA Finals, which begins Tuesday night between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. Instead, NBA reporter Malika Andrews will be the sideline reporter. Nichols will still host “The Jump,” which is ESPN’s daily NBA program.

“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” ESPN said in a statement.

The move comes after The New York Times published a story Sunday that included comments from Nichols insinuating that Taylor was chosen to be the host of the NBA Finals pregame show because Taylor was Black. Nichols is White.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in July 2020, per the Times’ report. “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.”

Nichols didn’t realize her camera was on during the phone call in which she made the comment, and the camera transmitted the audio to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. From there, an employee recorded and spread the audio.

When Nichols hosted “The Jump” on Monday afternoon, she took a moment to apologize for her comments.

“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,” she 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, 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.”

• Andy Kostka can be reached at akostka@washingtontimes.com.

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