Maria Taylor Leaves ESPN After Colleague Claims Race Got Her NBA Job

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ESPN announced Wednesday that Maria Taylor will be leaving the network, a decision that comes after her colleague Rachel Nichols suggested that Taylor be offered a hosting job because of her race.

ESPN said in a statement Wednesday that Taylor’s last assignment as network host was the broadcast of the NBA Finals on Tuesday and that her contract is now up. The Disney-owned company said the two sides could not agree on a new contract.

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. There is no doubt that we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build an extensive and capable talent list that is a thorough reflection of the athletes we cover and the fans we serve,” said Jimmy Pitaro, president of ESPN. “While she chose to pursue another opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”

Taylor, 34, has likely landed a new hosting job at NBC, according to the New York Post, and she’s expected to be part of the network’s Olympics starting Friday.

Taylor could also potentially become the host of “Football Night in America,” a pregame show on NBC, or play a part in Notre Dame football this season if the NBC contract is finalized, the Post reported.

“So grateful to Jimmy and all my wonderful 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,” Taylor said in the statement on Wednesday. “Words are insufficient to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”

The announcement comes weeks after The New York Times revealed details of a July 2020 phone call with Nichols, who is also an ESPN host, and Adam Mendelsohn, communications advisor to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.

The conversation was taped without her knowledge in Nichols’ Florida hotel room and entered from her camera into ESPN’s control room in Connecticut. Nichols complained to Mendelsohn about Taylor getting a job hosting ESPN’s pre- and post-game coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals, claiming the network was trying to make up for its “lousy old record on diversity.” Nichols is white and Taylor is black.

The recording began circulating within ESPN shortly after the call. Nichols was removed from ESPN’s NBA playoffs earlier this month and her hit NBA show, “The Jump,” went off air for a day.

Nichols reportedly apologized directly to Taylor but was rejected.

Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics holds the U.S. broadcasting rights to all summer and winter games through 2032.

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