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Rachel Nichols Out for NBA Finals Coverage on ABC

Rachel Nichols  Out for NBA Finals Coverage on ABC

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Rachel Nichols Out for NBA Finals Coverage on ABC

ESPN replaces Rachel Nichols with Malika Andrews as sideline … Tue, 06 Jul 2021 17:00:00 -0700-Comments made by Nichols that were caught on tape caused tremendous upheaval within ESPN over the past year. Nichols, who is white, suggested that a …

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Rachel Nichols Out for N.B.A. Finals Coverage on ABC

July 06, 2021

Comments made by Nichols that were caught on tape caused tremendous upheaval within ESPN over the past year. Nichols, who is white, suggested that a Black colleague, Maria Taylor, had been selected for a marquee job because of her race.

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Rachel Nichols had been expected to be ABC’s sideline reporter for the N.B.A. finals, as she was last year.Credit…Michael Gonzales/NBAE, via Getty Images
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July 6, 2021Updated 9:38 p.m. ET

When a sideline reporter first appeared on ABC’s broadcast of the N.B.A. finals on Tuesday night, it was not Rachel Nichols, an abrupt change announced by ESPN earlier in the day. It was an attempt to stanch a yearlong scandal that has spilled into public view about the company’s handling of conflicts centered around race.

The decision to have Malika Andrews be the sideline reporter instead was made after The New York Times reported that Nichols, who is white, made disparaging comments about a Black colleague, Maria Taylor, last year. Among other things, Nichols said that Taylor was picked to host N.B.A. finals coverage last season because ESPN was “feeling pressure” about diversity.

Nichols’s comments came during a private phone conversation while she was quarantined in a Florida hotel last July before the N.B.A. resumed its season, which had been paused because of the coronavirus pandemic. She was seeking career guidance from Adam Mendelsohn, the adviser and political strategist who works closely with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. The phone call was accidentally captured on camera and uploaded to a server at the company’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., then quickly spread widely among ESPN employees.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols told Mendelsohn during the call. “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.”

There have been wide-ranging discussions about the comments inside and outside of ESPN over the last two days, with former employees and even N.B.A. players weighing in. The Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant tweeted in support of Taylor, while some high-profile former ESPN employees — including Dan Le Batard and Jemele Hill — discussed the matter on Le Batard’s show Tuesday morning.

In a sign of the sprawling complexity of the scandal, commentators weighed in on numerous topics, including ESPN’s discipline and management as well as the friendship and professional relationship between Nichols and Mendelsohn. Some focused on the privacy issues at play with the recorded phone call. Others, in a discussion about white privilege and career advancement, raised that Nichols is related by marriage to the famed broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer and the Academy Award-winning director Mike Nichols.

Adam Silver, the commissioner of the N.B.A., addressed the situation at length during a news conference before tip-off of Game 1 between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks.

“It’s disheartening,” Silver said. He said that both Nichols and Taylor are “terrific” at their jobs, and that it was “unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other.” He said he would have thought that through difficult conversations “ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not.”

Nichols was the sideline reporter for the finals last year and during ESPN’s most important N.B.A. games this season. Both ABC and ESPN are owned by Disney. “We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the N.B.A. finals,” ESPN said in a statement.

Nichols hosted an episode of “The Jump” on Monday, and ESPN said earlier Tuesday that she would host the show on weekdays from the sites of the games throughout the finals. But although “The Jump” was listed on television schedules to air on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday afternoon, the show “Jalen & Jacoby” aired instead.

Josh Krulewitz, an ESPN spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment about why the show did not air.

Nichols, who has hosted “The Jump” since 2016, briefly commented during the show on Monday about the recording and her remarks about Taylor.

She said she did not want to distract from the crescendo to the N.B.A. season. But Nichols added that she did not “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.”

She was joined on the show by Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson, two Black former N.B.A. players who are regulars on “The Jump.” Perkins thanked Nichols for “accepting responsibility” and added that he knows her heart and that she is a “great person, great individual.” He also complimented Taylor.

After receiving criticism on social media for seeming to defend Nichols in his comments, Perkins went on Spaces, Twitter’s audio app, to explain himself. “At the end of the day, I can’t go out there and go off and go crazy and risk losing my job because some people want me to go on there and speak for how they feel,” Perkins said.

Andrews, who is part of a finals commentating team for the first time, is a former reporter for The Times.

Taylor will host episodes of “NBA Countdown,” ESPN’s pregame and halftime show, during the finals. Neither Taylor nor the commentators on the show, Jalen Rose, Adrian Wojnarowski and Jay Williams, appeared to address the turmoil on the show ahead of the opening game.

If the finals go to a sixth or seventh game, ESPN could have a dilemma to solve. Taylor’s contract with ESPN expires near the end of the finals, and to date the two sides are not close on a renewal.

Comments made by Nichols that were caught on tape caused tremendous upheaval within ESPN over the past year. Nichols, who is white, suggested that a Black colleague, Maria Taylor, had been selected for a marquee job because of her race.

image
Rachel Nichols had been expected to be ABC’s sideline reporter for the N.B.A. finals, as she was last year.Credit…Michael Gonzales/NBAE, via Getty Images
image
July 6, 2021Updated 9:38 p.m. ET

When a sideline reporter first appeared on ABC’s broadcast of the N.B.A. finals on Tuesday night, it was not Rachel Nichols, an abrupt change announced by ESPN earlier in the day. It was an attempt to stanch a yearlong scandal that has spilled into public view about the company’s handling of conflicts centered around race.

The decision to have Malika Andrews be the sideline reporter instead was made after The New York Times reported that Nichols, who is white, made disparaging comments about a Black colleague, Maria Taylor, last year. Among other things, Nichols said that Taylor was picked to host N.B.A. finals coverage last season because ESPN was “feeling pressure” about diversity.

Nichols’s comments came during a private phone conversation while she was quarantined in a Florida hotel last July before the N.B.A. resumed its season, which had been paused because of the coronavirus pandemic. She was seeking career guidance from Adam Mendelsohn, the adviser and political strategist who works closely with the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. The phone call was accidentally captured on camera and uploaded to a server at the company’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn., then quickly spread widely among ESPN employees.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols told Mendelsohn during the call. “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.”

There have been wide-ranging discussions about the comments inside and outside of ESPN over the last two days, with former employees and even N.B.A. players weighing in. The Memphis Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant tweeted in support of Taylor, while some high-profile former ESPN employees — including Dan Le Batard and Jemele Hill — discussed the matter on Le Batard’s show Tuesday morning.

In a sign of the sprawling complexity of the scandal, commentators weighed in on numerous topics, including ESPN’s discipline and management as well as the friendship and professional relationship between Nichols and Mendelsohn. Some focused on the privacy issues at play with the recorded phone call. Others, in a discussion about white privilege and career advancement, raised that Nichols is related by marriage to the famed broadcast journalist Diane Sawyer and the Academy Award-winning director Mike Nichols.

Adam Silver, the commissioner of the N.B.A., addressed the situation at length during a news conference before tip-off of Game 1 between the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks.

“It’s disheartening,” Silver said. He said that both Nichols and Taylor are “terrific” at their jobs, and that it was “unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other.” He said he would have thought that through difficult conversations “ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not.”

Nichols was the sideline reporter for the finals last year and during ESPN’s most important N.B.A. games this season. Both ABC and ESPN are owned by Disney. “We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the N.B.A. finals,” ESPN said in a statement.

Nichols hosted an episode of “The Jump” on Monday, and ESPN said earlier Tuesday that she would host the show on weekdays from the sites of the games throughout the finals. But although “The Jump” was listed on television schedules to air on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday afternoon, the show “Jalen & Jacoby” aired instead.

Josh Krulewitz, an ESPN spokesman, did not respond to a request for comment about why the show did not air.

Nichols, who has hosted “The Jump” since 2016, briefly commented during the show on Monday about the recording and her remarks about Taylor.

She said she did not want to distract from the crescendo to the N.B.A. season. But Nichols added that she did not “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.”

She was joined on the show by Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson, two Black former N.B.A. players who are regulars on “The Jump.” Perkins thanked Nichols for “accepting responsibility” and added that he knows her heart and that she is a “great person, great individual.” He also complimented Taylor.

After receiving criticism on social media for seeming to defend Nichols in his comments, Perkins went on Spaces, Twitter’s audio app, to explain himself. “At the end of the day, I can’t go out there and go off and go crazy and risk losing my job because some people want me to go on there and speak for how they feel,” Perkins said.

Andrews, who is part of a finals commentating team for the first time, is a former reporter for The Times.

Taylor will host episodes of “NBA Countdown,” ESPN’s pregame and halftime show, during the finals. Neither Taylor nor the commentators on the show, Jalen Rose, Adrian Wojnarowski and Jay Williams, appeared to address the turmoil on the show ahead of the opening game.

If the finals go to a sixth or seventh game, ESPN could have a dilemma to solve. Taylor’s contract with ESPN expires near the end of the finals, and to date the two sides are not close on a renewal.


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Rachel Nichols Out for N.B.A. Finals Coverage on ABC Tue, 06 Jul 2021 17:00:00 -0700-Rachel Nichols will no longer be the sideline reporter during ESPN's coverage of the 2021 NBA Finals. She'll be replaced by Malika Andrews.

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ESPN replaces Rachel Nichols with Malika Andrews as sideline reporter for NBA Finals

July 06, 2021

Expectations regarding ESPN's coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals landed Rachel Nichols in hot water within her own network. Those comments, made public in a New York Times report published Sunday, have now led to a change in assignment for her at the 2021 finals. 

Nichols will not be the sideline reporter for the Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks series, ESPN announced Tuesday. Malika Andrews will assume the role, while Nichols will continue hosting her daily NBA show, “The Jump.”

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

In a video recorded last year, apparently without her knowledge, Nichols told Adam Mendelsohn – a longtime LeBron James adviser – that she felt Maria Taylor, who is Black, was chosen to host pre- and post-game NBA finals coverage because the network was “feeling pressure” about on-air racial diversity.  

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Nichols felt the job should remain under her responsibilities, as companies like ESPN started assessing and addressing longstanding diversity issues. The video recording eventually made its rounds around the company. 

“If you need to give (Taylor) 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 from her Disney “bubble” hotel room to Mendelsohn in an excerpt published by the Times. “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.” 

Those comments created a rift inside ESPN that involved insider Adrian Wojnarowski and Jalen Rose. 

Nichols publicly apologized for her comments during Monday's airing of “The Jump,” which she's hosted since 2016 when she returned to ESPN after a stint at CNN and Turner Sports. 

“The first thing they teach in journalism school is don't be the story,” Nichols began the show. ” … 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.”

Andrews, 26, has emerged as an invaluable asset to the company across multiple platforms (TV, podcasts, digital), as well as someone who can break news. 

Taylor's contract is set to expire during the finals, which will air on ABC beginning Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

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– July 7, 2021
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