Rachel Nichols overheard saying company made decision based on ‘pressure’ regarding ‘diversity’
The newspaper reported a leaked recording of a conversation between Rachel Nichols, one of the outlet’s most prominent female presenters, and Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to LeBron James.
During the conversation in July 2020, Ms Nichols appears to express frustration that she had not been chosen as the primary host for the 2020 NBA finals coverage and that Maria Taylor, who is Black, had instead been selected.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Ms Nichols is overheard saying in the recording obtained by the newspaper.
The broadcaster seems to continue by saying that the company felt like they “need to give her more things to do” because they were “feeling pressure about [their] crappy longtime record on diversity.”
Ms Nichols is heard to add: “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.”
The hot mic moment was reportedly recorded by a video camera that Ms Nichols had in her hotel room allowing her to continue to appear on ESPN remotely while quarantining ahead of the season.
The New York Times said that the recording was uploaded to the company’s video servers which many employees have regular access to.
At least one colleague witnessed the video on the server, recorded it on a cellphone and shared it with others throughout the company, the outlet said.
In a statement to the paper regarding the recording Ms Nichols said she was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.”
She added: “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.”
Ms Nichols told the newspaper that she had reached out to Ms Taylor to apologise but that she had chosen not to respond, a decision which she “respected”.
She expressed frustration to the outlet that the conversation had been shared and was “shaken” that employees “had no remorse about passing around a spy video of a female co-worker alone in her hotel room.”
She added: “I would in no way suggest that the way the comments came to light should grant a free pass on them being hurtful to other people.”
Ms Taylor declined to comment when contacted by the newspaper. The Independent has reached out to ESPN for further comment.
As a result of the incident, The New York Times reported that the only person punished was digital video producer Kayla Johnson, who is Black, who told the company she had shared the video with Ms Taylor.
Ms Johnson was reported to have been given a two week unpaid suspension and has since left the company. Ms Nichols purportedly said that she was told that the “content of the conversation did not warrant any discipline.”
Ms Taylor’s contract with the broadcaster expires this month.