ESPN may be the “Worldwide Leader in Sports,” but the network has also been among the worldwide leaders in drama in recent years. We have heard plenty of horror stories with regard to various things that have gone on behind the scenes at ESPN over the decades, but the latest story is one of the spiciest to date.
Earlier this month, the New York Times revealed that the network had been desperately trying to weather a storm brewing between two of its biggest NBA personalities. Last July, Rachel Nichols – the host of The Jump and one of the networks’ most visible NBA sideline reporters – was filmed complaining about the fact that Maria Taylor – an African-American colleague – was chosen to host ESPN’s studio coverage for the 2020 NBA Finals over her.
While ESPN was able to keep the story under wraps for months, Taylor and everybody else at ESPN has reportedly been aware of Nichols’ comments since last summer. Nichols reportedly tried to apologize to Taylor for what she said, but Taylor wasn’t having it.
Last night was Maria Taylor’s last assignment for ESPN, the network announces.
On Wednesday, just hours after the Milwaukee Bucks disposed of the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, Taylor announced that she would be leaving ESPN after the expiration of her previous contract. Taylor said an extension could not be reached despite “much discussion,” so her time with the network has come to a close.
Bovada is offering you the chance on whether Nichols will follow Taylor out the door and whether she will remain in her post as host of The Jump beyond the end of the year.
What Did Nichols Say?
The aforementioned New York Times piece detailed Nichols’ disparaging comments about Taylor. While quarantining in her hotel room in the NBA bubble in Orlando last summer, Nichols unwittingly filmed her own private phone conversation with Adam Mendelsohn – a well-known NBA adviser with longtime ties to LeBron James and a variety of other stars.
Nichols was venting about ESPN’s decision to install Taylor as the host of the network’s studio coverage of the Finals, which is a job Nichols had done in the past. In the video, Nichols can be heard saying, “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, 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.”
“I just want them to go somewhere else – it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing,” she added.
Nichols was unaware that her in-room camera was on, and the video was subsequently uploaded to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol. An ESPN employee saw the video and quickly sent it to a number of co-workers, which is how the comments ultimately made their way to Taylor.
Odds Favor Nichols Staying at ESPN
Nichols Will Leave ESPN by December 31, 2021 (+140)
Nichols Will Remain at ESPN through December 31, 2021 (-160)
Clearly, ESPN wanted to sweep this situation under the rug and keep the drama from spilling over into public view. After hearing the comments, Taylor reportedly refused to interact with Nichols in any setting despite Nichols’ apparent attempts to smooth things over.
ESPN went as far as to pre-record any Nichols report that would subsequently air on the studio show as opposed to forcing Nichols and Taylor to interact with one another on-air. The fact that Taylor’s contract with ESPN was set to expire earlier this month added a whole new layer of drama to the situation.
Taylor reportedly wanted to become the highest-paid personality at the network, but that was apparently something ESPN was unwilling to do. She rejected a number of offers between $3 million and $5 million per year to stay, which means she likely believes she could earn more elsewhere as a free agent. NBC is among the networks that has reportedly been in hot pursuit of Taylor.
Even before Wednesday’s announcement, it seemed more likely than not that Taylor’s future would lie somewhere other than ESPN. As a result, the chances of Nichols leaving before the end of her own contract seemed rather slim. Nichols was never disciplined by the network as a result of her comments, and she has continued hosting The Jump without interruption since the NYT story ran on July 4.
Nichols did issue a brief on-air statement acknowledging her part in the situation before quickly moving on:
And, apparently, that was that. Nichols has continued to host the show and post on Twitter, as usual, ever since. However, the network did decide to remove her from her previous role as the No. 1 sideline reporter for the NBA Finals. Instead, the job went to the 26-year-old Malika Andrews.
While ESPN may decide to move Nichols away from her current role, she still seems incredibly likely to remain with the network through the end of the year. With Taylor leaving, one would imagine those at ESPN are hoping that this controversy is over and done with.
The Bet: Nichols Will Stay With ESPN (-160)
Will Nichols Continue to Host The Jump?
Nichols Will Continue to Host The Jump (+130)
Nichols Will Leave The Jump (-170)
Just two days after the comments surfaced publicly, Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that ESPN had no plans to take Nichols away from The Jump. She was the host of the show when it launched back in 2019, which was the same year she was installed as the host of the studio show for the NBA Finals.
However, ESPN decided to shuffle the deck last summer with Taylor’s stock growing within the company. Her role in the network’s college football coverage grew in recent years, and ESPN clearly decided that she would be the better option to anchor their NBA playoffs coverage, too.
Nichols’ contract with ESPN runs through 2023, but her future with the network is still in question. The Jump is an NBA show that fills some of the slowest hours of the broadcast day, and it’s worth wondering whether anybody would even notice if the show were to be taken off the air.
We have also yet to see whether Nichols’ comments will ultimately hurt her chances to land interviews with some of the league’s biggest stars. Nichols has carved out a role at the network for her ability to land interviews with the likes of LeBron James and Adam Silver, but will players be as willing to speak candidly with her after what she was caught saying over the phone?
Frankly, I’m not at all sold that The Jump is crucial enough to ESPN’s daily programming to be worth the potential headache of keeping it on the air. There’s value betting online for Nichols to remain in the role through the end of the year at +130, but the better bet seems to be the “no” side at -170.
The Bet: Nichols Will Leave The Jump (-170)
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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