Former NBA player Stephen Jackson defended ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after she said the sports network pulled an offer to host the 2020 NBA Finals because she is white.
Nichols told LeBron James PR advisor Adam Mendelsohn in July of last year that ESPN reneged on an offer for her to host the finals and instead gave the job to ESPN reporter Maria Taylor, who is black, for “diversity.” Nichols’ comments, recorded on a hot mic, appeared in an article Sunday in The New York Times.
Amid the backlash against Nichols, Jackson came to her defense in an Instagram video, backing up her account of what happened between her, the network, and Taylor. He blamed ESPN for causing the situation and said that the network picked Taylor for the job in a nod to Black Lives Matter.
“We all ramble. We say things when we are frustrated. And you know, Rachel [Nichols] did deserve that job. It’s just plain and simple. I talked to Rachel and I know a lot of things she was saying out of frustration because ESPN put her in a bad position,” Jackson said, according to Fox News. “And they even put Maria [Taylor] in a position trying to give her a sympathy job.”
“They were trying to make themselves look good because all the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd stuff was going on,” Jackson continued. “So ESPN tried to make themselves look good by taking the job from Rachel that she had already had, that they already told her she had, that she deserved, and give it to Maria just to make themselves look good. ESPN, ya’ll are some suckers.”
Nichols gave well-wishes to Taylor during her conversation with Mendelsohn last year, while also blaming the network for how it handled the situation.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said at the time.
“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,” she said. “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away,” Nichols said.
Nichols noted to the Times that her comments reflected the frustration she felt at ESPN and not toward Taylor. As the Times reported:
In response to questions from The Times, Nichols said she was frustrated and was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.” But she added: “My own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here — if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her.”
Nichols also said that she had reached out to Taylor to apologize for her comments through text and phone calls. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Nichols told the Times.