Outkick’s Clay Travis says that ESPN reporter Maria Taylor, who is black, purposely leaked audio of white reporter Rachel Nichols saying she only got her job for “diversity reasons.”
The story broke Sunday evening after 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.
Travis believes that Taylor, whose contract is up in a matter of weeks, had surrogates leak the audio of Nichols saying Taylor was only getting the job because she was black in order to pressure ESPN in her upcoming contract negotiations.
“Maria Taylor’s contract is up in a couple of weeks,” Travis said. “If you want to know how a story like this actually ends up occurring, it is because Maria Taylor decided to have her people leak this story. She’s the only one who benefits, she’s the only one not quoted directly in the story. She is trying to extort ESPN into paying her a massive salary increase, which she does not otherwise deserve.”
In the conversation with Mendelsohn, Nichols makes it clear that she has no issue with Taylor being advanced as part of the network’s need to enhance its “diversity.” She only objects to the network taking away her Finals sideline reporting gig to do it.
“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.”
Attempts by ESPN and Nichols to smooth things over by apologizing to Taylor have failed. A failure which led to the network deciding to remove Nichols from the NBA Finals sideline reporting gig and replace her with Malika Andrews, who is black.
“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.
Nichols will continue to host her regular NBA-focused program, The Jump.