Racial drama brewing at ESPN between Rachel Nichols, Maria Taylor

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A leaked recording of a phone conversation from last year has created a difficult situation at ESPN, pitting two of the network’s most visible female broadcasters against one another, consistent with a report Sunday within the NY Times. The dispute goes back to the printed of the NBA Finals last year when ESPN executives selected Maria Taylor over Rachel Nichols to be the first host for the network’s coverage. An unhappy Nichols discussed her frustration about not being chosen during a call with Adam Mendelsohn, the longtime adviser of Lakers star LeBron James, expressing her opinion that Taylor got the assignment because the network was feeling pressure to enhance its record on racial issues.

‘‘I wish Maria Taylor all the success within the world,’’ Nichols said in an audio excerpt published by the days . ‘‘ . . . If you would like to offer her more things to try to do because you’re feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I do know personally from the feminine side of it — like, go for it. Just find it elsewhere. you’re not getting to find it from me or taking my thing away.’’ The Times said the decision was recorded by a camera in Nichols’ bedroom that enabled her to seem on-camera from the NBA bubble. The content was recorded to a video server at ESPN headquarters, where any number of individuals could have had access thereto.

At least one person recorded a replica of the decision on a cellphone, the days reported, and therefore the contents soon spread around ESPN. The only person disciplined over the incident, the days said, was a digital video producer who told ESPN’s human-resources department she shared the video with Taylor. The producer, a Black woman, was suspended for 2 weeks without pay and since has left the corporate. Nichols explained to the days she was ‘‘unloading to a lover about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.’’ She said she reached bent Taylor via texts and phone calls but never received a response.

The tension between the 2 remained throughout the present NBA season, as Taylor has continued to host the network’s ‘‘NBA Countdown’’ pregame show. All of Nichols’ segments are prerecorded, in order that they aren’t forced to interact. The Times also reported there was a heated discussion among ESPN executives and broadcast personnel on a call before the playoffs began in late May. Execs said that if Taylor continued her objection to having Nichols on living, then no reporters would be allowed to get on live. Ultimately, the network reversed course. Taylor’s contract with the network is about to expire in but three weeks, and there are ‘‘few substantive steps’’ to succeed in a replacement one, consistent with the days . ESPN will air the NBA Finals between the Suns and Bucks on ABC starting Tuesday.

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