Maria Taylor Exits ESPN After Leaked Audio Scandal

Maria Taylor headshot courtesy of ESPN

Maria Taylor has decided to move on from ESPN after an internal conflict over diversity exploded into a public scandal.

ESPN and Taylor issued a joint statement Wednesday, saying contract negotiations between the two sides had broken down.

“After much discussion, an agreement on a contract extension could not be reached. As a result, Maria’s last assignment for ESPN was last night’s NBA Finals telecast,” the statement said.

Related Story: Maria Taylor Breaks Silence on Rachel Nichols ESPN Diversity Scandal

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro added that Taylor will be missed.

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve,” Pitaro stated. “While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”

In her own remarks, Taylor thanked ESPN and her former co-workers for helping her become a better journalist.

“So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud,” she said.

According to the New York Post, the 34-year-old is close to inking a deal with NBC Sports to cover the Olympics, which begin Friday.

Related Story: Rachel Nichols ‘Deeply Sorry’ for Comments About Maria Taylor

As previously reported, Taylor and fellow ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols were at the center of a bombshell New York Times story earlier this month, which revealed leaked audio of Nichols saying Taylor was named primary host of ESPN’s 2020 NBA Finals coverage because of her race.

Nichols made her controversial comments last year while she was speaking to LeBron James’ public relations adviser Adam Mendelsohn. Nichols told the Times she was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.”

The only person disciplined over the audio, was a Black digital video producer who told ESPN’s human resources department she shared the clip with Taylor.

There is no word from ESPN so far on who will replace Taylor in her top NBA analyst position as host of NBA Countdown.