The National Association of Black Journalists are demanding a meeting with top ESPN and Disney personal in the wake of Rachel Nichols’ comments regarding Maria Taylor where she could be heard on a recording suggesting Taylor was picked over her to cover last year’s NBA Finals because of her race.
The NABJ released a statement on Wednesday, calling Nichols’ comments “disappointing” and “disparaging,” while demanding a meeting with ESPN.
“The NABJ Board of Directors is disturbed to learn the details of this situation and what appeared to be a lack of accountability and a desire by ESPN to provide accommodations for a white employee who mocked diversity and a well-qualified co-worker while seemingly ignoring how Taylor and others who later heard the conversation may have been affected,” said NABJ President Dorothy Tucker. “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.”
ESPN reportedly released the following statement to the NABJ:
“We’re proud to lead the sports media industry in making significant progress to develop and place diverse talent on-air and in key leadership positions. Diversity, Inclusion and Equity are top priorities at ESPN. We recognize more work needs to be done, and we will continue our commitment to creating a culture that reflects our values. Our partnership with NABJ is an integral part of that commitment.”
Earlier this week, Nichols took to live TV to apologize to her co-workers and Maria Taylor.
“The first thing 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 the (NBA) Finals,” Nichols said. “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, [and] how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and for how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”
Taylor is hosting NBA Countdown during the Finals alongside Malika Andrews after ESPN decided to remove Nichols off the broadcast.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols reportedly said 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.”
After the video spread internally at the network, Taylor told ESPN execs that she had decided to not finish covering the NBA season. When she changed her mind, the network agreed to have Nichols’ sideline reporting segments be prerecorded and presented as if they were live so that she would not interact with Taylor on-air.