Maria Taylor is parting ways with the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN. Her departure from the TV network comes just weeks after a very public controversy involving statements made about her by another anchor.
ESPN announced that Taylor and the network were unable to agree to terms on a new contract. Taylor was reportedly offered a raise of nearly $3 million. How this departure will affect the TV schedule remains to be seen, but it’s likely to shake up the world of sports news coverage.
Taylor released a statement announcing her exit from ESPN: “So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, women’s and men’s college basketball and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro also released a statement on Taylor’s departure: “while she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
While the two parties are certainly saying all the right things, many wonder if there is not some bad blood between Taylor and her former employer. Earlier this month a private phone conversation with ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols was leaked. In the recording, Nichols insinuated that Taylor was only chosen to be her replacement on NBA Countdown because she was African American.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world,” Nichols said in the recording. “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.”
After Nichols’s comments were made public, ESPN pulled her daily show, The Jump, from the schedule. Nichols apologized for her comments the following day. Nichols’ comments were leaked right before the NBA Finals were set to begin.
The TV network did not reprimand Nichols for her comments. Many Black employees spoke out about how their seemingly supportive white colleagues acted duplicitously behind closed doors. They also called out the network for perceived bias in their handling of the incident.
Taylor said the first time she was contacted by human resources she was asked if she had leaked Nichols’s tape to the media. ESPN further announced Nichols will no longer appear as a sideline reporter during NBA games, and she will be replaced by NBA reporter Malika Andrews.
A brighter future?
During the NBA playoffs, ESPN threatened to cancel all live appearances by sideline reporters if Taylor refused to work with Nichols. This bizarre & disgusting tactic would have punished nearly all NBA reporters working for the network except for Nichols. Many of the former NBA players and journalists covering the Finals objected, and Taylor’s departure suggests the damage was done.
Maria Taylor is unlikely to disappear from the TV schedule. While her next gig hasn’t been announced yet, it has been rumored she will be covering the Olympics for NBC. The Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony is set to begin on Friday, July 23rd.
Taylor may become a regular fixture on the NBC Sports schedule. She would be a great addition to the Football Night in America team. Taylor formerly covered college football & the NFL extensively with ESPN.
Are you looking forward to seeing what Maria Taylor does next? Do you think ESPN handled the situation poorly? Let us know in the comments!