The day after Maria Taylor covered the last game of the NBA Finals for ESPN, the network announced Wednesday that the reporter and rising talent had left for “a new opportunity.”
The departure, which came the day after Taylor’s contract expired,
took place weeks after the New York Times published audio from a white reporter, Rachel Nichols, who claimed last July that Taylor, who is Black, was hosting the NBA Finals in the bubble because ESPN was “feeling pressure” about diversity. Nichols’s comments caused something less than a reckoning inside the network. Taylor and fellow NBA Countdown hosts Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, and Adrian Wojnarowski considered boycotting the first game of this year’s playoffs, and the day before the Finals, Nichols was stripped of her role as sideline reporter for the series between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns.
Taylor’s contract was supposed to expire during the off-season of the NBA and NFL, the two leagues she primarily covered for ESPN, but the pandemic shifted basketball into the summer for the past two seasons. Taylor was reportedly offered $5 million per year during contract negotiations, which she turned down, according to the New York Post. The Post and the Times also report that she is close to signing a deal with NBC, which could allow her to cover football, tennis, and the Olympics. ESPN has not yet determined if Nichols will return to her primary role as NBA sideline reporter next year.