For someone who covers Black athletes for a living, it doesn’t seem like Rachel Nichols is the biggest proponent of diversity–at least not when she doesn’t know she’s being recorded.
The NBA analyst is getting (rightfully) roasted all over Twitter today following a bombshell exposé by The New York Times, revealing some unsavory comments she made during the 2020 NBA finals.
It all started in July 2020, when Nichols was staying at the Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World near Orlando, Florida, where the NBA playoffs would take place. While confined to her room due to COVID-19 quarantine protocols, she had a video camera with her so that she could continue appearing on ESPN shows.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said. “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.”
Nichols was talking to Mendelsohn to request an interview with James and his Lakers teammate Anthony Davis, but she also took the opportunity to seek advice, saying she believed her bosses were advancing Taylor’s career at her expense.
“I just want them to go somewhere else — it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing,” Nichols told Mendelsohn at the time.
Unbeknown to Nichols, her video camera was on, which means the call was being recorded to a server at ESPN’s headquarters. Dozens of ESPN employees have access to the company’s video servers as part of their normal work flow, and at least one of these people watched the video on the server, recorded it on a cellphone, and shared it with others.
In a recording of the video obtained by The New York Times, Nichols and Mendelsohn paused for a moment during the conversation after Nichols said she planned to wait for ESPN’s next move. Mendelsohn, who is white, then said: “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left.” Nichols laughed.
Posting those black squares on Instagram to act like an ally for 5 minutes is exhausting, huh?
This conversation finally coming out a year later has NBA fans upset, seeing yet another example of outwardly supportive white people talking differently about these issues behind closed doors.
According to The Times, Nichols said she reached out to Maria Taylor to apologize through texts and phone calls, but said, “Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect.”
While ESPN declined to say whether any employees were disciplined, Nichols said that she was told that the “content of the conversation did not warrant any discipline.”
The only person known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a Black digital video producer who told ESPN human resources that she had sent the video to Taylor. She was suspended for two weeks without pay and later was given less desirable tasks at work, but has since left the company.
What a great way to handle an already f***ed up situation.
And now, we wait for the public backpedal–er, apology from Nichols.
Here’s how people are responding on Twitter: