Sports broadcast network ESPN has taken Rachel Nichols off its NBA programming and has moved to cancel “The Jump,” a daily basketball show hosted by the aforementioned presenter for the last five years.
The Jump’s cancellation follows a New York Times report from a month ago that exposed some pretty disparaging comments Nichols made about former colleague Maria Taylor. Taylor, who is black, was charged with coverage of the NBA Finals in the bubble last year. And, in a conversation with an adviser to Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James, Nichols was heard making claims of Taylor being chosen for the job because ESPN was feeling pressured to diversify.
LeBron and the Lakers would win the NBA Championship at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando Florida. The Milwaukee Bucks are the reigning champs after a 4-2 finals win against the Phoenix Suns, and according to Draftkings Arizona, they are once again favorites to win the championship.
The comments were made in Nichols’ hotel room in the bubble; she was not aware that a camera was on. The conversation was recorded and stored on a server which numerous ESPN staffers have access to. It was later recorded by an employee on her cell phone and sent to more employees, eventually leaking to The Times.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols was heard saying in the recording. “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 would tell the times she was informed by ESPN the conversation did not warrant any discipline at the time.
According to The Times: “The only person known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a digital video producer who told ESPN human resources that she had sent the video to Taylor. Johnson, who is Black, was suspended for two weeks without pay, and later was given less desirable tasks at work.”
Nichols would offer an apology of sorts on an episode of The Jump after the story got out but Taylor has since left ESPN and moved to NBC.
On Wednesday, ESPN confirmed having taken Nichols off television, with Sports Business Journal breaking the news.
“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” Dave Roberts, the executive in charge of ESPN’s NBA studio shows, said.
Nichols also got on Twitter to give her take, thanking The Jump’s crew and claiming it wasn’t built to last forever.
“Got to create a whole show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favorite people talking about one of my favorite things,” she tweeted. “An eternal thank you to our amazing producers & crew – The Jump was never built to last forever but it sure was fun.
More to come.”
The network relieved Nichols from her role as a sideline reporter for the NBA Finals this year after the recording leaked to the press and also canceled an episode of The Jump. However, she continued hosting the show until August 16 before going on vacation for a few days while Malika Andrews took over.
It’s unknown as to whether or not Nichols will be back on the airwaves for ESPN at some point in time. She signed a contract extension with the company last year but hasn’t made any revelations over her future while a representative of her did not respond to a request for comment.
The Jump was one of the most popular shows on ESPN and Nichols was known for interviewing the biggest names in the NBA, as well as league commissioner Adam Silver.
Roberts, who was promoted two weeks ago and took over some of the duties previously held by Stephanie Druley, was the one who decided to pull Nichols from NBA duties and cancel Jump.
Meanwhile, there are other changes being made to ESPN TV. On Tuesday, it was also announced that Max Kellerman will be leaving First Take and is set to host a new show currently in development. That show will likely come on in the afternoon as a replacement for The Jump.
ESPN will still have to find a replacement for the departed Taylor to host “NBA Countdown,” with the 2021/22 NBA season set to begin in two months.