In leaked audio, ESPN host and reporter Rachel Nichols suggested the network passed her over for a gig at the NBA finals because she’s white, instead opting to give the job to ESPN reporter Maria Taylor, who is black.
As highlighted by Yahoo, Nichols made the comments during a private conversation with longtime LeBron James advisor Adam Mendelsohn. The conversation was apparently accidentally recorded when Nichols forgot to turn off her video camera.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said during the call, which took place last July.
“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.”
The conversation was recorded and stored on one of ESPN’s servers, Yahoo noted: “One employee recorded it with their cell phone and sent it to others within the company, who then sent it to more employees. The call was eventually leaked to Deadspin and the Times.”
In reaction to the leak, Nichols emphasized that she was speaking privately and venting her frustration, not attacking Taylor. The New York 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.”
The host also reached out to Taylor personally to apologize:
Nichols said she reached out to Taylor to apologize through texts and phone calls. “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect,” Nichols said.
A report from The Wall Street Journal published last year revealed that ESPN anchor Sage Steele was allegedly iced out of a special for the network regarding race after two colleagues of Steele’s, who are black, complained that the biracial anchor would not be accepted by the black community; or, as Steele herself described it, she was deemed not “black enough.”
“Ms. Steele said colleagues told her she was considered for the special by the executive in charge, Michael Fountain, until two of the other on-air personalities involved, Elle Duncan and Michael Eaves, complained, saying Ms. Steele wouldn’t be accepted by what they considered the Black community, according to the person familiar with her account to management,” the Journal reported.
In a statement to the paper, Steele seemed to confirm the allegations.
“I found it sad for all of us that any human being should be allowed to define someone’s ‘Blackness,’” she said. “Growing up biracial in America with a Black father and a white mother, I have felt the inequities that many, if not all Black and biracial people have felt — being called a monkey, the ‘n’ word, having ape sounds made as I walked by — words and actions that all of us know sting forever.”
“Most importantly, trying to define who is and isn’t Black enough goes against everything we are fighting for in this country, and only creates more of a divide,” the statement added.
ESPN denied the allegations.
Rachel Nichols: “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.” pic.twitter.com/aB5MifujuX
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) July 4, 2021