Earlier this month, reports began circulating about a shake up at ESPN following racist remarks made by Rachel Nichols about her colleague, Maria Taylor. Maria, who has been the host of one of the networks top rated shows, NBA Countdown, had been pretty tight-lipped about the scandal but as contract negotiations came nearer, the word around town was that she would be parting ways with ESPN.
And she has.
Last night, Taylor joined fellow hosts Jalen Rose, Adrian Wojnarowski, and Jason Williams for Game 6 of the NBA Finals in what would be her last moment with the sports juggernaut. Nichols, who was relieved of her duties when the news of her comments became public knowledge and replaced with Malika Andrews for the Finals, has not been working in front of the camera at ESPN during this time but still remains under contract with them.
In a conversation with an adviser to Lebron James, Nichols, who is white, said that Taylor had gotten the role of hosting the NBA finals instead of her because ESPN executives were “feeling pressure” on diversity. Completely negating the talent, work ethic and knowledge Maria brings to her job. Though the comments were made over a year ago, things seemed to have really been ignited in May when her fellow co-hosts threatened to refuse to appear on-air when they were giving a directive from ESPN executives that the group felt benefitted Nichols.
Taylor’s contract ended last night and, had the Milwaukee Bucks not eliminated the Phoenix Suns securing the NBA Championship, the network may have found themselves in hot water going into Game 7. It seems they could not come to a favorable decision for both parties and the two have split ways. The chairman of ESPN, Jimmy Pataro, released this statement today, “Maria's remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we've done together,” making no mention of the well-documented issues.
Taylor, ever the professional, released a statement of her own, confirming her decision to go elsewhere. "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.”
We're rooting for Maria Taylor every step of the way and excited to learn more about her career moves, but we hate to see yet another Black woman have to fight in the workplace to get what she's worked so hard for.