Taylor thanked Pitaro in her statement. “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,” she said. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
Taylor is the second Black woman involved in the controversy to leave ESPN afterThe New York Times obtained a recording of the 20-minute phone call featuring Nichols’ complaints. “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world—she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said during the call. “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.” Nichols made the remarks on July 13, 2020, when she learned she wouldn’t be hosting the NBA Finals as expected. She didn’t apologize publicly for the comments until they were featured in a New York Times’ article earlier this month.
She told the Times Taylor hasn’t responded to the white anchor’s attempts to apologize and that at the time of the conversation, she was told the “content of the conversation did not warrant any discipline.” However, Kayla Johnson, the Black digital video producer who later sent the video to Taylor, was suspended for two weeks and stuck with “less desirable” work after the incident, the Times reported. Johnson later left ESPN.
Taylor told ESPN executives including Pitaro in an email The New York Times obtained that when she learned of Nichols’ comments she was fed up because she had already learned of another colleague’s disparaging remarks. “I will not call myself a victim, but I certainly have felt victimized and I do not feel as though my complaints have been taken seriously,” she wrote two weeks after the Nichols incident. “In fact, the first time I have heard from HR after 2 incidents of racial insensitivity was to ask if I leaked Rachel’s tape to the media. I would never do that.” Taylor added: “Simply being a front-facing black woman at this company has taken its toll physically and mentally.” Taylor later reconsidered and agreed to host NBA Countdown if Nichols didn’t appear, an agreement ESPN failed to uphold, the Times reported.
It’s unclear what’s next for Taylor, but the New York Post reported that she is expected to cover the Olympics for NBC starting Friday and that she may be up to host the network’s Football Night in America when host Mike Tirico takes a new position with NBC in the fall of 2022.