On Tuesday, he hosted the NBA Finals for ESPN. The next day she left.
ESPN announced on Wednesday That Maria Taylor, one of the network’s high-profile talents, had left the company.
In an unusually brief news release, ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro acknowledged that Taylor “chosen to pursue a new opportunity,” but added that he is “proud of the work we’ve done together.”
The departure was expected from earlier this month, when The New York Times reported On the derogatory comments made about Taylor by one of her colleagues at ESPN, Rachel Nichols. In a conversation with a LeBron James consultant that Nichols was unaware of was being recorded, Nichols, who is white, said that Taylor, who is black, was given the role to host the NBA Finals instead because ESPN executives were “feeling the pressure.” On Variety.
The comments, which were made a year earlier, spanned the entire pro basketball season within ESPN and caused tension among staff covering the NBA before boiling over in May. On the first day of the playoffs, Taylor, along with his “NBA Countdown” on-air colleagues, Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, and Adrian Wojnarowski, considered boycotting the show in response to a directive from ESPN executives that they believed would be a non-starter. Was that it benefited Nicholas.
Some NBA players weighed in on social media, and Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA, was disappointed with the way ESPN was handling the situation, stating that “ESPN must have found a way to be able to work through it. Clearly: No.”
Last week, Pitaro sent a memorandum to the employees It emphasized that Taylor had been selected to host the “NBA Countdown” for the finals on merit alone, and added that a future town-hall-style meeting would address issues of diversity and inclusion.
Taylor’s contract status reached the final. Negotiated years ago, the plan was for the deal to expire during the off-season of the NBA and college football—the two main games he covered for ESPN. The NBA Finals was held later than usual due to the coronavirus, putting ESPN in a bind.
Taylor’s contract expired on Tuesday, the day the Milwaukee Bucks won the NBA Championship in Game 6. Executives feared the situation would get worse if they had to replace Taylor for Game 7.
But they were able to work out a deal for Taylor to remain with the company until the end of the finals, and ESPN executives continued to try to re-sign him to a long-term contract, until recently. No.
No new destination was announced for Taylor, but she is close to signing a deal with NBC, according to two people familiar with the talks who were not authorized to speak publicly about her. At NBC, Taylor could become the studio host for the NFL pregame show “Football Night in America” and the Super Bowl when it’s the network’s turn to air. Olympics, tennis and horse racing will also be options on NBC.
Taylor’s departure could result in wholesale changes to ESPN’s NBA coverage.
At the very least, the company will have to choose a new host for “NBA Countdown,” its pregame and halftime show, which stunned personnel in TNT’s widely acclaimed “Inside the NBA” or even an ineffective attempt. has changed. Its its own “college gameday.” It may also have to figure out a new production structure: In late 2020, just before the season begins, the senior producer running “NBA Countdown” left ESPN, and the executive vice president above him was fired.
ESPN also has to decide whether to return Nichols to his role as chief sideline reporter for NBA games next season. She was replaced during the NBA Finals by Malika Andrews, who had previously worked for The Times.
Taylor’s departure leaves a void for ESPN in other areas. She is also an analyst on “College Gameday”, a sideline reporter for the college football national championship game and hosts the women’s college basketball tournament and the NFL Draft.