ESPN is in turmoil after one of its star reporters, who is white, was heard on a hot mic criticizing the network’s decision to tap a black female colleague to host its NBA coverage last year.
Rachel Nichols was overheard last year in a phone conversation saying that she was passed over in favor of a black woman, Maria Taylor, because ESPN was ‘feeling pressure’ to have more on-air diversity.
In her conversation with Adam Mendelsohn, Nichols is heard complaining about being passed over to host the network’s marquee pre- and post-game shows during the NBA playoffs and finals last year.
An audio excerpt of the phone call was obtained by The New York Times.
When a recording of the call leaked and began to circulate among ESPN employees, it prompted a crisis with several of the network’s top talent contemplating a refusal to appear on the air in protest.
It also caused anger among black employees at the network who felt that the secretly recorded conversation was a more accurate reflection of white attitudes about diversity.
The anger boiled over when it became apparent that ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro would not discipline Nichols despite the demands from employees that he do so.
The only individual known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a black digital video producer who reportedly told human resources that she sent the video to Taylor.
Johnson was suspended for two weeks without pay and was later given less desirable tasks at work. She recently left ESPN along with other black employees who felt mistreated by the network.
There was outrage that Nichols appeared to suggest that Taylor was picked to host the channel’s NBA playoffs coverage simply because she was black and not because she was the most qualified for the job.
‘I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – she covers football, she covers basketball,’ Nichols, a veteran sideline reporter who works the network’s NBA games and also hosts an NBA daily news show called The Jump, told Mendelsohn in July 2020.
‘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.’
Nichols claimed in her phone call with Mendelsohn that her bosses were violating the terms of her contract.
‘I just want them to go somewhere else – it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing,’ Nichols says in the recording.
ESPN did not immediately return DailyMail.com’s request for comment on Sunday, but a spokesperson for the network told the Times: ‘We, of course, are not going to comment on the specifics of any commentator contract.’
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SOURCE: Daily Mail