During the Rachel Nichols saga, ESPN embarrassed itself.
Even if ESPN's handling of Nichols' case is not the worst in sports media history, it's still worth mentioning.
Maria Taylor is blatantly racist, unlike Nichols, and she should have been fired for her private taped comments about ESPN's poor diversity record and that executives were going to take away her contractually agreed-upon job as the host of the NBA Finals in the wake of George Floyd's death.
The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver disagreed.
Any way you look at it, "The Jump" was officially canceled on Wednesday, and Nichols has been fired by ESPN, who will pay her the final year of her contract, which likely amounts to around $2 million.
From ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro down, the administration was embarrassingly indecisive.
As soon as ESPN learned of Nichols' remarks, they did nothing substantive. Nothing. Nada.
Only one rule was set by ESPN management: Taylor and Nichols could not be on broadcast together. Introducing Passive and Aggressive.
That's not all, either. Mike Shiffman was elevated to senior vice president of ESPN's NBA coverage during that year. Stephanie Druley, who was in charge of the NBA at the time, was Shiffman's boss. Nichols and Taylor were reconciled as a result of their efforts. It's not like it's ever happened.
ESPN yanked Nichols off the sidelines for the NBA Finals in July after The New York Times reported her private remarks, but allowed her to continue hosting "The Jump."
It was never entirely clear to whom this made sense.
"The Jump" began with Nichols suggesting that reporters should never make the narrative about themselves on the night of the NBA Finals. As a result of the Times' article, she began the show by apologizing. In other words, this is how "The Jump" was led on NBA Finals night. Could she hear what she was saying to herself?
When the NBA Finals began the following night, "The Jump" was cancelled. Because of the high temperatures, ESPN opted to take a day off from the show. On the third day, it returned.
"Careers should not be erased by a single comment," Silver said during his Finals press conference.
Even after the Finals, ESPN did not remove Nichols from its lineup of analysts. Nichols was on the air during the NBA's offseason until Wednesday, when ESPN made it official that she would no longer be covering the league. However, sources say she won't be back on ESPN.
He could sue if there's no secret agreement banning him from taking legal action.
One day in July, Nichols was in Florida for the 2020 NBA draft and forgot to turn off her camera in her hotel room because she was so focused on the NBA draft. During a phone discussion with one of LeBron James' advisors, Adam Mendelsohn, Nichols was unaware he was being recorded.
As Nichols is heard saying, "I wish Maria Taylor every success in the world - she covers football, she covers basketball." Because of your poor track record on diversity, which I personally know from the female perspective, feel free to give her more things to do." Instead, just look for it somewhere else! There is no way you can take my stuff away from me."
ESPN in Bristol, Conn., was recording Nichols's chat while she was in Florida. There is two-party consent in both of these states, which means both parties must be aware of the recording. A certain amount of legal ambiguity exists here. A inquiry about whether ESPN had paid Nichols more so she wouldn't sue them was not answered by ESPN.
Nichols' statements became public in July, when Taylor was in the middle of negotiations to leave for NBC.
When the NBA Finals were over, Taylor departed ESPN for NBC, where she will cover the Olympics and the National Football League. As a result of the Finals, Druley was demoted from her position as ESPN's lead NBA reporter, but she kept her employment. Longtime ESPN executive Dave Roberts was promoted to supervise the NBA's operations.
According to insiders, ESPN's new show will resemble "NFL Live," which features Laura Rutledge, Marcus Spears, Dan Orlovskly, and Mina Kimes.
The new program could feature Malika Andrews, Chiney Ogwumike, Richard Jefferson, and Kendrick Perkins.
This time around, perhaps ESPN's NBA shows will be better controlled. Nichols is to blame for her own misfortune. But ESPN's top brass, from Pitaro on down, failed.
Nichols and Taylor were kept apart. Now, both of them are gone. Alles in all, the situation was handled in a disgraceful manner.