As ESPN continues to deal with the fallout from the leaked video of Rachel Nichols citing “diversity” for Maria Taylor being given the nod to host pregame and postgame shows for the 2020 NBA Finals, NBA commissioner Adam Silver took time out of his Tuesday press conference to address the turmoil at the worldwide leader in sports.
According to The New York Times, Taylor has refused to work with Nichols over the past year after hearing Nichols air her frustrations to Adam Mendelsohn — longtime advisor to LeBron James — in an inadvertently recorded conversation between the two in July 2020.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in the July 13, 2020 conversation, now leaked. “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.”
The news broke over the weekend, forcing Nichols to apologize on Monday’s airing of “The Jump,” one of ESPN’s most popular basketball shows. The apology was apparently insufficient as Nichols was removed from her NBA Finals sideline duties, and Tuesday’s episode of “The Jump” was canceled.
NEWS: ESPN canceled Rachel Nichols' The Jump for today, The Post has learned.
The plan is to have it on tomorrow.
— Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) July 6, 2021
Silver was asked about the situation at ESPN — a major partner of the league — and he expressed disappointment in the way it’s been handled.
“It’s particularly unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other,” Silver said. “Both Rachel and Maria are terrific at what they do. They work extraordinarily hard.”
“I would have thought that in the past year, maybe through some incredibly difficult conversations, that ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not,” Silver continued. “I should also say, too, that these issues are not unique to ESPN. As I said, the league is working on its own issues in terms of doing a better job with diversity. It’s not just in sports, but in companies around America, there’s a reckoning going on.”
Silver was asked about the progress that the league has made in hiring more black and women coaches, and while Silver said there has been obvious progress, he feels there is still work to do.
“In terms of black coaches, obviously we’ve seen positive developments there in terms of the number of vacancies that are being filled. I will say, not unlike other organizations that are dealing with diversity issues, this is something that requires daily attention,” Silver said. “Again, positive movement in that direction but we’re not going to rest on our laurels there. Back to the point about data, it’s something that’s a regular part of our team meetings, of our board of governors meetings now. Not just in the coaching ranks, but across the league and making sure teams are focused on it.”
While Silver criticized ESPN’s handling of the situation, his comment that the league is going out of its way to hire for “diversity” plays into the conversation surrounding Nichols’s comments. He says that the NBA is focused on adding more black coaches and general managers to its ranks and that the league is not alone in attempting to address what they see as an issue. Was it incorrect for Nichols to assume the same issues were being addressed at ESPN when she was passed over for a job?
Nichols is being blasted for her comments and losing opportunities for them as well, but Silver’s statement on the league’s emphasis on hiring a more diverse workforce gives credence to Nichols’ complaint.
To his credit, Silver did defend Nichols in the press conference, saying that everyone deserves to be judged on their body of work, not on one moment.
“What we’re seeing in ESPN, it’s one thing to talk about the principles around diversity and inclusion, it’s something else when it comes to somebody’s specific job and how that’s handled,” Silver said. “What I’ve learned from dealing with these issues in the NBA is that they are incredibly complex. There’s no magic bullets here, and they require a very labor-intensive effort of getting people in the room and working through these issues by talking a lot about them, and then talking even more about them, and creating a climate where people are comfortable saying what’s on their mind where people are given the benefit of the doubt, especially long-term employees that are in good standing, that when they do make comments, that people recognize that people make mistakes.”
“Careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment. We should be judging people by the larger context of their body of work and who they are and what we know about them.”
Silver is absolutely correct in his comments regarding the backlash that Nichols is facing, but he doesn’t run ESPN. Nichols is being punished for insinuating that diversity played a part in her being passed over for a job she is more than qualified to do, as companies around the country turn their focus to addressing “diversity issues” in their workforce.
You’re not allowed to have it both ways. You can’t yell and scream about the lack of diversity in a specific field, and at the same time get upset when someone points out that they may have lost out on an opportunity due to the increased focus on diversity.
Pick a lane, because we all see the hypocrisy.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.