ESPN used to rely on two talented female sportscasters, Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor, for some of its top basketball coverage. Going forward, the network isn’t going to have either.
Variety reports that ESPN has decided to cancel “The Jump,” the Nichols-led weekday daily basketball-news program and take the sportscaster off of NBA coverage. The decision comes after Nichols had become embroiled in a controversy after a video recording of her complaining about a colleague, Maria Taylor, getting a role she had been promised, spurring internal complaints and division within the Disney-owned sports-media giant. Taylor recently left ESPN and moved to NBC Sports.
“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” David Roberts, senior vice president for NBA production at ESPN, said in a statement. “Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.” ESPN is expected to honor the remainder of Nichols’ contract, according to a person familiar with the matter, but her future assignments at the network remain unknown.
The decision is one of the first made by Roberts in the NBA role, which he only assumed in recent weeks. A spokesman for Nichols could not be reached for immediate comment. Sports Business Journal previously reported the decision.
“Got to create a whole show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favorite people talking about one of my favorite things,” Nichols said on Twitter. “An eternal thank you to our amazing producers and crew. ‘The Jump’ was never built to last forever, but it sure was fun. More to come…”
ESPN intends to launch a new basketball program in time for start of the next NBA season in October. While personnel have not been announced, potential in-house anchors such as Malika Andrews and Ramona Shelburne could be among those up for consideration.
The decision would seem to bring an end to a controversy that has simmered within ESPN since July of last year. That’s when Nichols was caught on video speaking to representatives of LeBron James about ESPN’s decision to have Taylor host “NBA Countdown” during 2020’s NBA Finals. Her comments were recorded by a video camera she had left on and subsequently uploaded into ESPN’s system, where the footage was discovered and distributed by an employee. Nichols was frustrated that she hadn’t gotten the role, and suggested that ESPN’s interest in paying more attention to diversity was a factor in the decision. The matter boiled over after the New York Times reported that some employees who helped produce ESPN’s basketball coverage may have been choosing sides, and even drew comments from Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner.