ESPN, Maria Taylor Part Ways Following Leaked Comments From Rachel Nichols

Maria Taylor and ESPN jointly announced on Wednesday that she will be leaving the network after not reaching an agreement on a contract extension. The news comes weeks after leaked comments were made public of fellow ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols alleging Taylor attained her position due to her race.

In a statement released Wednesday, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said, "Maria's remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we've done together."

Taylor thanked Pitaro in her statement, as well as her former colleagues.

"So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women's and Men's college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family—the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up," Taylor said in the statement.

"Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud," she added.

Maria Taylor
ESPN and Maria Taylor jointly announced on Wednesday she is leaving the network. In this photo, Taylor takes a selfie prior to a CFP National Championship game between the Clemson Tigers and the Alabama Crimson Tide at Levi's Stadium on Jan. 7, 2019, in Santa Clara, California. Getty

A press release from ESPN noted the NBA Finals broadcast on Tuesday evening was Taylor's last assignment for the network.

The 34-year-old Taylor spent seven years with the network. In addition to the NBA, she also covered college basketball and college football. There has been no announcement made about where she will be working next.

The announcement of her departure follows a July 4 story in The New York Times that featured published comments taken from leaked audio of Rachel Nichols. In the recording, Nichols reportedly said, "If you need to give her more things to do because you're feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity—which, by the way, I myself know personally—like, go for it, just find it somewhere else."

The leaked audio was said to have been recorded after Nichols, who is white, complained about Taylor being assigned to report on the sidelines of 2020's NBA championship series. Nichols later apologized for the comments on-air and was subsequently removed from reporting on the sideline of this year's NBA Finals. The statements today did not reference the incident.

According to the Times, though, Taylor was allegedly unhappy with how ESPN handled the controversy when the network suspended a Black female producer for sharing the recording rather than handing Nichols a harsher punishment.

Taylor's contract was set to expire on July 20, but she reached a temporary agreement with ESPN to stay on until the completion of the NBA Finals. Today, however, Taylor and ESPN said they could not agree on a further contract extension.