Thursday, August 26, 2021

ESPN Drops 'The Jump', Boots Rachel Nichols

ESPN journalist Rachel Nichols, who had been a staple of the network's NBA coverage, will no longer appear on the network's NBA programming and the show she had been hosting will be canceled, reports USAToday.

The Sports Business Journal reported that Nichols was informed of the decision this week and that it is unlikely that Nichols will appear on the air for ESPN during the year-plus remaining on her contract with the network.

"We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned," ESPN senior vice president of production David Roberts said to the SBJ in a statement. "Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content."

The SBJ reported that "The Jump," the afternoon show Nichols had been hosting, will run for the next couple of weeks, but that Nichols would not be hosting. The SBJ added that ESPN will launch a new afternoon NBA show, though details haven't been finalized.

This move comes after a leaked recording of a phone conversation between Nichols and Adam Mendelsohn, the longtime adviser of Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. The conversation came during last year's broadcast of the NBA Finals, when ESPN executives selected Maria Taylor over Rachel Nichols to be the primary host for the network's coverage.

An unhappy Nichols discussed her frustration with not being chosen and Nichols expressed her opinion that Taylor got the assignment because the network was feeling pressure to improve its record on racial issues.

"I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball," Nichols said in an audio excerpt published by the New York Times. "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."

According to the Times, the call was recorded by a camera Nichols had in her hotel room that enabled her to appear on-camera from the NBA bubble. The contents were recorded to a video server at ESPN headquarters, where any number of employees could have accessed it.

At least one person recorded a copy of the call on a cellphone, the Times reported, and the contents soon spread throughout the company. 

Nichols later issued an apology to Taylor, who has since left the company for NBC Sports.

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