Maria Taylor Breaks Silence on Rachel Nichols ESPN Diversity Scandal

ESPN's Maria Taylor during a regular season game at Cardinals Stadium in Louisville. (Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images)

Maria Taylor has addressed the ESPN diversity controversy after leaked audio revealed Rachel Nichols saying she believed Taylor, who is Black, was promoted because of her race.

Taylor broke her silence Wednesday by tweeting: “During the dark times I always remember that I am in this position to open doors and light the path that others walk down. 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.”

As previously reported, Nichols made her controversial comments last year while she was speaking to LeBron James’ public relations adviser Adam Mendelsohn. Nichols is believed to have accidentally recorded the audio while her camera was connected to a company server allowing her to report live from the NBA bubble.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in audio published last weekend by the New York Times. “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.”

Her comments came in response to Taylor being named primary host of ESPN’s 2020 NBA Finals coverage.

Nichols made an on-air apology Monday on her show The Jump saying, “What 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.”

Related Story: ESPN Benches Rachel Nichols From Reporting at NBA Finals, Taps Malika Andrews

ESPN has not made public remarks regarding the Taylor and Nichols controversy. The only move the company has made so far is sidelining Nichols from reporting on the NBA Finals this year in favor of Malika Andrews. Taylor introduced Andrews on-air during the first game of the NBA Finals on Tuesday.

The National Association of Black Journalists expressed disappointment over how ESPN has handled the Nichols controversy and issued a public statement on Wednesday calling for a meeting with Disney’s top brass. Disney is the parent company of ESPN.

“The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is outraged to read reports in The New York Times and other publications that uncover a toxic ESPN culture that appears to promote bias,” the group said in a statement. “The silence and apparent inaction by ESPN leaders over the last year is deafening and, as a result, NABJ is requesting a meeting with Bob Iger, executive chairman at The Walt Disney Company, which owns ESPN; Bob Chapek, CEO of The Walt Disney Company; and Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN.”