ESPN has replaced Rachel Nichols as its sideline reporter for the NBA finals following a report detailing critical comments she made about Black colleague Maria Taylor.
The network announced Tuesday that Malika Andrews would handle that role starting Tuesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks meet the Suns in Phoenix for Game 1 of the best-of-seven-games series. Sister network ABC will air the game.
Nichols, who is white, has been the sideline reporter for its top national games this season and for last year’s NBA finals. But the switch was made after the New York Times reported Sunday on her comments last year, when she learned Taylor would lead the network’s studio show instead of her during the league’s restart at Walt Disney World.
In a phone conversation that was accidentally recorded and the Times obtained, Nichols said: “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity – which, a proposito, 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.”
The Times’ report said the show’s crew was angry with Nichols, who apologized Monday while hosting The Jump.
Nichols, who has hosted the daily weekday basketball show since 2016, will continue in that role onsite during the finals. She returned to the network that year after working for ESPN a partire dal 2004-13.
“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA finals,” ESPN said in a statement. “Rachel will continue to host The Jump.”
Taylor will again host the NBA finals pregame and halftime shows, though the New York Post reported that her contract ends later this month and she had rejected an extension.