The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has blasted ESPN for their “silence and apparent inaction” in response to the controversy surrounding the leaked audio of white reporter Rachel Nichols saying that black reporter Maria Taylor only got her job for “diversity reasons.”
Now, the NABJ says they want to meet with Taylor and Nichols’ bosses at Disney.
On Sunday, the New York Times revealed the shocking details of an inadvertently recorded phone call between Nichols and LeBron James’ public relations adviser Adam Mendelsohn. In the call, Nichols laments that Taylor is being advanced into a prominent role in ESPN’s NBA Finals coverage (a role Nichols felt was contractually hers) because the network is trying to enhance the diversity of the broadcast.
“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,” Nichols said. “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”
The public release of that leaked audio led to a major controversy that resulted in Nichols losing her NBA Finals sideline reporting gig to black reporter Malika Andrews. In addition, Nichols’ NBA-focused show, The Jump, was taken off the air for a day.
However, despite Nichols attempts to apologize to Taylor and the networks decision to remove Nichols from Finals coverage, the NABJ accused ESPN of “inaction” and wants a meeting with the brass at ESPN and Disney.
“The NABJ Board of Directors is disturbed to learn the details of this situation and what appeared to be a lack of accountability and a desire by ESPN to provide accommodations for a white employee who mocked diversity and a well-qualified co-worker while seemingly ignoring how Taylor and others who later heard the conversation may have been affected,” NABJ President Dorothy Tucker said in a statement. “The silence and apparent inaction by ESPN leaders over the last year is deafening and, as a result, NABJ is requesting a meeting with Bob Iger, executive chairman at The Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN; Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company; and Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN.”
ESPN responded by stressing that they see the NABJ as partners in their pursuit of diversity.
“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. 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.”
Nichols is expected to continue hosting The Jump.