ESPN's Rachel Nichols 'recorded saying colleague Maria Taylor hosted NBA finals because she's black' in hot mic leak

AN ESPN reporter was reportedly heard on a hot mic criticizing the sports broadcaster for choosing black colleague Maria Taylor to host the 2020 NBA finals.

Sports reporter Rachel Nichols, 47, claimed she was passed over in favor of Taylor because the network was “feeling pressure” to have more on-air diversity.

Leaked footage appears to show her complaining about being “overlooked” to host the network's pre and post-game shows during the NBA playoffs and finals held last year, The New York Times reports.

In July 2020, she reportedly told Adam Mendelsohn: “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 c***py 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.”

In the call, Nichols, who hosts NBA show The Jump, alleged ESPN bosses were violating the terms of her contract, MailOnline reports.

In the recording, she said: “I just want them to go somewhere else – it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.”

The sports reporter sought advice from Mendelsohn because she believed her bosses were advancing Taylor at her expense.

Unbeknown to Nichols, she was caught on a hot mic as it appeared her camera was on and the call was being recorded to a server at ESPN's HQ in Bristol, Connecticut.

It is not clear why her camera was on, but most people at ESPN believe that Nichols, using new technology during a pandemic, did not turn it off properly.

Dozens of ESPN employees have access to the company’s video servers as part of their normal workflow, the New York Times reports.

It's reported that at least one person watched the video on a server, recorded it on a cellphone, and shared it with others.

More copies of the conversation spread around ESPN, according to reports.

In a statement to the Times, Nichols said she was frustrated and was “unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria.”

She said: “My own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here – if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her.”

Nichols said she reached out to Taylor to apologize through texts and phone calls.

She said: "Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect."

Nichols said the recording of the video by an ESPN colleague was hurtful.

She said: “I was shaken that a fellow employee would do this and that other employees, including some of those within the NBA project, had no remorse about passing around a spy video of a female co-worker alone in her hotel room (sic).

“I would in no way suggest that the way the comments came to light should grant a free pass on them being hurtful to other people."

Taylor told ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro that she would not finish the NBA season after the video leaked.

She reportedly wrote in an email: “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 said that being a black woman has taken its toll “physically and mentally”.

Taylor reportedly agreed to host the show NBA Countdown on the condition that Ms Nichols didn't feature.

Nichols’ appearances on the show have been pre-recorded but ESPN officials reportedly warned Taylor that if she refused to speak to the sports journalist, live reporters wouldn’t appear on the show.

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ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz told the New York Times: "The idea behind this was to treat every reporter equally and inclusively by providing a similar forum and platform."

The Sun has approached ESPN for comment but a spokesperson told the Times: "We, of course, are not going to comment on the specifics of any commentator contract."

Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor have also been approached for comment.

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