ESPN’s Rachel Nichols is being replaced by Malika Andrews for the network’s sideline coverage of the NBA Finals, which begin Tuesday night between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. Andrews worked as a sideline reporter in the NBA “bubble” last year after joining the channel in 2018. “We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” the network said via New York Post reporter Andrew Marchand. “Rachel will continue to host The Jump.” The switch comes after Nichols had to apologize for comments she made about a colleague at ESPN in a call to Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James, and Rich Paul, James’s agent. (Mendelsohn himself had to apologize for comments he made about “#MeToo and Black Lives Matter” in the same conversation.) Audio from the call, which took place in July 2020, was released in a New York Times story on July 4. In it, Nichols, who is white, criticizes ESPN, complaining that fellow on-air reporter Maria Taylor, who is Black, was given a pregame hosting opportunity because of the network’s “crappy longtime record on diversity.” “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 says in the audio. “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.” The comments discredit Taylor, her talent, and her experience as a sports analyst for nearly a decade. She is currently slated to host the pregame and halftime coverage during this year’s NBA Finals, but Taylor’s contract is set to expire later this month, potentially in the middle of the NBA Finals.
Nichols apologized for her remarks on her daily program The Jump on Monday. “So the first thing they teach 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,” Nichols said on the ESPN2 program. “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.”
Update July 7: Maria Taylor tweeted a statement that didn’t directly address the current controversy, but still kind of does. “During the dark times I always remember that I am in this position to open doors and light the path that others walk down,” she wrote. “I’ve taken some punches but that just means I’m still in the fight. Remember to lift as you climb and always KEEP RISING”