News and Commentary

ESPN Host Maria Taylor Leaves Network Weeks After ‘Diversity’ Feud With Colleague Rachel Nichols
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: ESPN analyst Maria Taylor reports from the sideline during the Allstate Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2021 in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

As soon as her hosting duties were fulfilled for the NBA Finals on ESPN, reporter Maria Taylor said goodbye to the four-letter network. 

On Wednesday, ESPN announced that the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension, officially putting an end to the speculation on Taylor’s future at the “worldwide leader in sports.” 

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic,” Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content Jimmy Pitaro said.  “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.”


The separation seemed like an inevitability after it was reported that Taylor had turned down an offer during last year’s pandemic that would eventually reach $5 million annually. Sources told the New York Post that Taylor was looking for “Stephen A. Smith” money, which is closer to $8 million annually. 

Taylor was never going to get that amount of money — especially after a pandemic during which companies around the world took a major financial hit — making her departure imminent. 

“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,” Taylor said on Wednesday. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”

The contract negotiations between Taylor and ESPN had reportedly been going on for some time, but the doors blew off after The New York Times detailed the turmoil at ESPN over the past year. 

The controversy reportedly began in July 2020 when NBA reporter Rachel Nichols inadvertently recorded a conversation between herself and longtime LeBron James advisor Adam Mendelsohn. The conversation took place in Nichols’ hotel room in Orlando, Florida, while in the NBA bubble, where the 2020 NBA Playoffs were taking place. Nichols had recently been informed by management that she would not be hosting ESPN’s pregame and postgame shows for the NBA Finals. Taylor would be given the assignment. 

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said on July 13, 2020. “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.”

“I just want them to go somewhere else — it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.” 

The conversation made its way back to ESPN headquarters, where it was recorded by an ESPN employee and shared throughout the company. It eventually reached Taylor, who told ESPN she did not want Nichols appearing live on “NBA Countdown,” a show Taylor hosted.  

Nichols — who said she has reached out to Taylor multiple times to apologize — was pulled from her sideline duties during the NBA Finals. 

Taylor’s contract was due to end during the NBA Finals — July 20 according to The Post — making the timing of the NYT piece interesting. 

It’s unclear where Taylor will be heading next, but the Post reported Wednesday that Taylor is likely heading to NBC and will be part of the network’s Olympics coverage. 

Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to

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