ESPN is in HOT WATER for how they handled a diversity issue last year.
In 2019, a Black ESPN reporter, Maria Taylor, was appointed to cover the 2020 NBA finals. Maria’s white colleague, Rachel Nichols, learned she wouldn’t be hosting the NBA finals because Maria was doing it.
Rachel vented to a man named Adam Mendelsohn, who is on LeBron James’ advising team. Rachel explained her frustration to Adam in a video, which was leaked. In the video, Rachel claims Maria was promoted only because she’s Black and the network needed to add more diversity. As reported on The Jasmine Brand, Rachel said,
“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 [by] taking my thing away.” Rachel continued,
I just want [ESPN] to go somewhere else—it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.”
Rachel then proceeded to discuss the overarching culture at ESPN, saying:
Those same people—who are, like, generally white conservative male Trump voters—is part of the reason I’ve had a hard time at ESPN. I basically finally just outworked everyone for so long that they had to recognize it. I don’t want to then be a victim of them trying to play catch-up for the same damage that affected me in the first place, you know what I mean. So I’m trying to just be nice.”
Take a listen to leaked audio:
Adam is also under fire for saying, “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left.” Take a listen:
Many people are outraged that Rachel wasn’t reprimanded for her remarks. TJB notes, “the only known individual who was punished was Kayla Johnson, a digital producer who admitted she sent the video to Maria. She was subsequently suspended without pay for two weeks and essentially demoted.”
NY Times reached out to Adam for a statement. He said,
“I will share what I believed then and still believe to be true. Maria deserved and earned the position, and Rachel must respect it. Maria deserved it because of her work, and ESPN recognized that like many people and companies in America, they must intentionally change. Just because Maria got the job does not mean Rachel shouldn’t get paid what she deserves. Rachel and Maria should not be forced into a zero-sum game by ESPN, and Rachel needed to call them out.”
“[I was] unloading to a friend about ESPN’s process, not about Maria. 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. Maria has chosen not to respond to [my apologies], which is completely fair and a decision I respect.”
Via The Jasmine Brand:
Both Maria Taylor and Kayla Johnson declined to comment. It’s also worth noting that Kayla Johnson and a few other Black employees left ESPN because of the network’s refusal to reprimand Rachel Nichols. Additionally, other Black employees–including Maria Taylor–brought up the recording earlier this year while on a preshow call with production members and hosts, showing that tensions remain high within ESPN’s walls.
It’s also worth noting that Maria Taylor‘s contract with ESPN expires later this month, and it has reportedly not yet been renewed. As a result, Maria‘s future with the company seems unclear for the time being.