ESPN has removed reporter Rachel Nichols from its coverage of the NBA Finals Tuesday after a recording of her phone conversation criticizing the network’s diversity polices broke over the weekend.
“We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” ESPN said its Tuesday statement, according to the New York Post
Until today, Nichols, who is white, had been giving sideline reports as part of ESPN’s basketball coverage with hosts Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy, and Mark Jackson. While she is no longer assigned to that role, ESPN also noted that Nichols will not be removed as host of The Jump during the series.
The reprisal comes on the heels of an article published by the New York Times on Sunday in which it was reported that Nichols could be heard on a recorded phone call complaining that ESPN had given one of her contractually arranged on-air jobs to black reporter Maria Taylor.
In the conversation, Nichols says on one hand that she wishes Maria Taylor all the best, but on the other hand does not want to lose the things she worked hard to earn just because ESPN is feeling “pressure” over making its on-air staff more diverse.
“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 can be heard saying on the recording.
On Monday, a day after the story of the recording broke, Nichols went on the air to offer an apology for her comments.
“I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect and how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN. How deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly, Maria Taylor,” Nichols told the audience during a broadcast of NBA Countdown.
The recording also brought wide criticism for Adam Mendelsohn, a close adviser to Lakers star LeBron James, who was the person on the other end of the recorded phone conversation with Nichols.
On the call, Mendelsohn is heard slamming ESPN as a “snake pit” and claiming that “between Me Too and Black Lives Matter,” he was “exhausted” by the discussion about diversity.
Mendelshon also issued an apology on Monday for his comments.
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