Rachel Nichols opened Monday’s episode of “The Jump” with an apology for comments she made regarding colleague Maria Taylor in July 2020, in which she suggested Taylor, who is Black, hosted coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals because ESPN was “feeling pressure” to be more diverse.
The New York Times ran a Sunday story detailing the fallout of her comments, which she unknowingly recorded and uploaded to ESPN servers. There, it was shared throughout the company. According to The Times’ report, several of Nichols’ colleagues — including those as prominent as “NBA Countdown” commentators Jalen Rose, Adrian Wojnarowski and Jay Williams — criticized her for her words. Those who spoke anonymously to The Times also expressed disappointment in ESPN’s refusal to punish her for her comments.
“The Jump” host wasted no time on Monday in addressing the story, apologizing to her colleagues — particularly Taylor:
Nichols’ full quote:
“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 a fantastic Finals. 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. How deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor. And how grateful I am to be a part of this outstanding team.”
Commentators Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins also commented on Nichols’ statement and apology. They appreciated her taking responsibility for her actions while acknowledging there remains work to be done to create an inclusive atmosphere at ESPN.
“I know your heart,” Perkins said, referring to Nichols. “Great person, great individual. I also know Maria Taylor. Great person as well. Very, very talented, hard-working. And I feel that she also deserves every opportunity that is presented her way. My only hope is that we have a commitment overall to support each other through this process and continue to support each other through our journey.”
Said Jefferson: “Rachel and I, our entire group here have had some very difficult conversations over this time period. And those conversations don’t end here. We will continue to have uncomfortable conversations. No one is excused. (Nichols) is not excused. I am not excused, (Perkins). This doesn’t just go away.”
Nichols, who made the comments in a phone call with LeBron James’ advisor Adam Mendelsohn and agent Rich Paul, said she expected to host coverage of the Finals, which prompted her comments:
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in the call. “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.
“I just want them to go somewhere else — it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.”
Taylor, who did not speak to The Times for its story, has yet to comment publicly regarding the situation at ESPN or with Nichols. Her contract with the company expires July 20.