ESPN’s Rachel Nichols Replaced By Malika Andrews On NBA Finals Sideline After She Alleged Maria Taylor Got Promoted Because She’s Black In Leaked Audio

Rachel Nichols, Malika Andrews, Maria Taylor (center)

ESPN’s Rachel Nichols Replaced By Malika Andrews On NBA Finals Sideline After She Alleged Maria Taylor Got Promoted Because She’s Black In Leaked Audio

Update #2 (July 6th): The fallout of Rachel Nichols’ remarks about Maria Taylor isn’t over yet.

ESPN announced today (July 6th) that Rachel Nichols will not be reporting at the NBA Finals sideline. Instead, she has been replaced by Malika Andrews. 

ESPN said in a statement, according to The Hollywood Reporter, 

“We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host The Jump [her daily NBA show on ESPN 2].”

Maria Taylor, Malika Andrews

Malika Andrews has been with ESPN since 2018. She was a sideline reporter last year in the NBA “bubble” during the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NBA Finals start tonight (July 6th) with the Milwaukee Bucks taking on the Phoenix Suns.

Rachel Nichols hasn’t publicly responded to being replaced, but Malika Andrews shared a photo from the arena in Phoenix yesterday (July 5th).

Update #1 (July 5th): Today, ESPN NBA sideline reporter and “The Jump” host Rachel Nichols issued a brief apology for comments she made about diversity and her colleague Maria Taylor. Over the weekend, a bombshell report from The New York Times detailed an alleged heavy internal issue at ESPN over comments Nichols made in 2020 while Nichols and Taylor were both being considered to host coverage for the NBA Finals. Today, Nichols told viewers,

“The first thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t be the story, and I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals. But I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”

See the clip.

 

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Original Story: ESPN has found itself in some hot water for how the network handled a controversy last year.

In 2019, ESPN reporter Maria Taylor was promoted to the host of NBA Countdown. Months later, she was appointed to a position in which she would cover the 2020 NBA finals. Shortly thereafter, fellow ESPN host Rachel Nichols made some comments about Maria Taylor‘s career advancement that some found inflammatory. After Rachel Nichols discovered she would not be hosting coverage of the 2020 NBA finals, she proceeded to vent over video to Adam Mendelsohn–part of LeBron James‘ advising team. Rachel Nichols claimed she deserved the position and that Maria Taylor got the job because she is Black. Back in July 2020, Rachel said:

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world—she covers football, she covers basketball. 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 [by] taking my thing away.”

She continued:

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

Rachel then proceeded to discuss the overarching culture at ESPN, saying:

“Those same people—who are, like, generally white conservative male Trump voters—is part of the reason I’ve had a hard time at ESPN. I basically finally just outworked everyone for so long that they had to recognize it. I don’t want to then be a victim of them trying to play catch-up for the same damage that affected me in the first place, you know what I mean. So I’m trying to just be nice.”

However, Rachel Nichols had her video camera on during her conversation, and–because she had the video camera to primarily continue working remotely–the call was automatically recorded and sent to ESPN servers. After other employees saw the video, they began sharing the audio around. A portion of the recording can be heard down below:

However, Rachel wasn’t the only one on the call who made controversial remarks. After she claimed she was waiting for ESPN’s next move, Adam Mendelsohn chimed in to say:

“I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left.”

After the audio leak, some were outraged and called for Rachel Nichols to be reprimanded for her statements. However, she allegedly continued her standard duties at the network and did not face any reprimand from ESPN. The only known individual who was punished was Kayla Johnson, a digital producer who admitted she sent the video to Maria Taylor. She was subsequently suspended without pay for two weeks and essentially demoted.

Now, after The New York Times reached out to those involved for a statement on the matter, Adam Mendelsohn said:

“I will share what I believed then and still believe to be true. Maria deserved and earned the position, and Rachel must respect it. Maria deserved it because of her work, and ESPN recognized that like many people and companies in America, they must intentionally change. Just because Maria got the job does not mean Rachel shouldn’t get paid what she deserves. Rachel and Maria should not be forced into a zero-sum game by ESPN, and Rachel needed to call them out.”

For her part, Rachel Nichols commented:

“[I was] unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria. 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. Maria has chosen not to respond to [my apologies], which is completely fair and a decision I respect.”

Both Maria Taylor and Kayla Johnson declined to comment. It’s also worth noting that Kayla Johnson and a few other Black employees left ESPN because of the network’s refusal to reprimand Rachel Nichols. Additionally, other Black employees–including Maria Taylor–brought up the recording earlier this year while on a preshow call with production members and hosts, showing that tensions remain high within ESPN’s walls.

It’s also worth noting that Maria Taylor‘s contract with ESPN expires later this month, and it has reportedly not yet been renewed. As a result, Maria‘s future with the company seems unclear for the time being.

What do you think about the situation? Comment down below to let us know!

Authored by: Nick Alexander Fenley