NBA reporter Rachel Nichols returns to ESPN amid Maria Taylor’s furore

ESPN part-time reporter Rachel Nichols covers the game during the third game of the 2021 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals on June 24, 2021 at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

Jim Gates | National Basketball Federation | Getty Images

After a strange, ultra-short hiatus, Rachel Nichols is back at ESPN.

Nichols, a white NBA reporter, returned Wednesday on her show “The Jump” after an unannounced one-day hiatus amid excitement over her race-related comment last year about a black colleague, Maria Taylor.

“There’s so much talk today,” said Nichols, ironically, as the basketball-focused show began airing Wednesday, which began as scheduled at 4:00 p.m. ET in Phoenix.

Much of the NBA media world has been talking about Nichols and Taylor since Sunday when a New York Times bomb explosion revealed details of the July 2020 phone call that Nichols had with Adam Mendelsohn, high profile communications advisor to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

During that call, recorded on a live video camera in Nichols’ hotel room without her knowledge, Nichols complained to Mendelsohn about Taylor getting a coveted job as host of ESPN’s pre- and post-game coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals would have.

Nichols had assumed this job would be here as part of her contract, and suggested to Mendelsohn that Taylor would get the gig because of her race – and because ESPN, owned by Walt Disney Co., wanted to spruce up its “diversity” references .

“If you have to give her more to do because you are feeling pressure from your shitty long-term record of diversity – which I know personally from the female side, by the way – then do it,” said Nichols on the call, the audio of which was published by the Times has been.

“Just find it somewhere else. You won’t find it from me or take my thing away, ”she said.

ESPN reportedly never disciplined Nichols for the comment, which, like the rest of the conversation, was fed into the network’s control room in Connecticut by her camera. A tape of the video began circulating shortly after the call to ESPN.

On Tuesday, two days after the Times article, ESPN revealed that Nichols had been banned from reporting on the NBA finals.

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Nichols had served as the primary supporting actress during the NBA playoffs, and it was believed that she would continue that job during the finals competition between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. Instead, Malika Andrews – who is Black – got the finals sideline seat.

Taylor, on the other hand, was named to host with other ESPN talents on the network’s pregame and halftime show, “NBA Countdown”.

ESPN noted on Tuesday that Nichols would host their show “The Jump” on weekdays during the finals from the Games’ sites.

“We believe that is [the] best decision for everyone involved to keep the NBA finals in focus. Rachel will continue to host ‘The Jump’, “ESPN said in a statement on Tuesday.

That may be true as of now, but hours after the announcement on Tuesday it was no longer the case.

Instead, “The Jump” and Nichols didn’t come out as planned.

And ESPN didn’t explain why it didn’t show up.

Instead of “The Jump”, ESPN aired two other ESPN presenters, Jalen Rose and David Jacoby, who appeared on their show “Jalen & Jacoby”.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver spoke out in defense of Nichols on Tuesday.

Silver told reporters that “People are realizing that people make mistakes, that careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment, that we should judge people by the larger context of their work and personalities.”

Nichols apologized for the controversy surrounding her call with Mendelsohn on Monday during her show.

“I am deeply sorry to have let down those I hurt, especially Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be a part of this team,” said Nichols.

Nichols reportedly reached out to Taylor directly to apologize, but was turned away.

Mendelsohn, who is also white, apologized in a statement to CNBC on Sunday for a comment he made to Nichols during the call last year.

He had said to her: “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter I have nothing more.”

In an email to CNBC, Mendelsohn said, “I made a stupid, careless comment rooted in privilege and I am truly sorry,” said Mendelsohn, who co-founded James’ black electoral group More Than A Vote last year.

“I shouldn’t have said it or even thought it,” said Mendelsohn. “I work to support these movements and I know that the people affected by these problems are never exhausted or left with nothing. I need to keep reviewing my privilege and working to be a better ally, ”he added.

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