ESPN had to devise a new game plan for the NBA Finals.
The Disney-owned sports-media giant said it would move its veteran basketball reporter Rachel Nichols off sideline duties for the NBA Finals, and utilize Malika Andrews instead as it grapples with new scrutiny over how it handled a bizarre leak of Nichols on video appearing to disparage last year’s decision to use Maria Taylor in the 2020 Finals production.
“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host ‘The Jump,” ESPN said in a statement Tuesday.
Executives at the sports outlet no doubt hope the decision will put to rest a period of inner discord. In July of last year, Nichols was caught on video speaking to representatives of LeBron James about ESPN’s decision to have Maria Taylor host “NBA Countdown” during 2020’s NBA Finals. Her comments were recorded by a video camera she had left on and uploaded into ESPN’s system, where the footage was discovered and distributed by an employee. Nichols was frustrated that she hadn’t gotten the role, and suggested that ESPN’s interest in paying more attention to diversity was a factor in the decision.
During Monday’s broadcast of “The Jump,” ESPN’s regular basketball-news program, Nichols said she was loath to make herself part of the story, but felt a need to address the issue, which has been exacerbated by a New York Times article on the imbroglio. ““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 team.”
More to come…
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