Rachel Nichols made her first public appearance on Showtime since her departure from ESPN and said ‘at least one person’ decided to spy on her after she left new recording equipment on.
Caught in the middle of a conversation with Adam Mendelsohn, an adviser to many athletes like LeBron James, Nichols, 48, said she thought Maria Taylor, 35, was taking over NBA Finals coverage in 2020 so the network could promote diversity.
She explained on Showtime’s ‘All The Smoke’ podcast, hosted by former NBA players Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, that she was using new equipment and didn’t know she hadn’t turned off the line connecting her to ESPN headquarters in Bristol.
“At least one person just decided to sit and watch and started spying on me like I was their own personal TV show,” she said.
‘When they heard something they thought was juicy, they took their phone and started recording my conversation.’
Nichols added that ESPN’s decision to move Nichols to a sideline reporting role and promote Taylor to host during the 2020 NBA playoffs was in response to a New York Times article questioning the network’s diversity capabilities.
Rachel Nichols, 48, says she believes she was spied on during a 2020 conversation with ‘friend’ Adam Mendelsohn, which later led to her departure from ESPN
The conversation indicated that Nichols believed that Maria Taylor (pictured) was promoted during ESPN’s NBA Finals coverage so the network could promote diversity
While giving context to why she had the conversation with Mendelsohn, whom Nichols called “a friend,” she added that hosting the NBA Finals was included in her contract with ESPN.
“He brought up the article that had been in the paper about the lack of opportunities for people of color at ESPN, and we started talking about how my situation might intersect with some of the racial and gender history of a network that is well-documented and complicated,” said Nichols.
The 2020 shoot between Nichols and Mendelsohn was documented by the New York Times in an article in which Nichols is shown bemoaning Taylor’s increased coverage.
“If you need to give her more things to do because you feel pressured by your shitty, long-standing record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — then go for it,” Nichols chimes in. saying.
“Just find it somewhere else.”
After the article was published, Taylor left ESPN for NBC, where she serves as a sportscaster and host of ‘Football Night in America.’
On Showtime’s ‘All The Smoke’ podcast, Nichols said no wrongdoing was found in the recording and that she was only disciplined after it was made public
Nichols, who hosted ESPN’s ‘The Jump’ in addition to its live NBA broadcasts, said more context was not included when the footage was publicly circulated
Nichols and ESPN parted ways in 2021, leading to Nichols joining Showtime Sports’ NBA coverage in 2022
During the conversation, Nichols said it was not documented that she had called Taylor ‘incredible talent’ and wished her ‘all the success in the world’.
She continued, noting part of the conversation where Nichols said that ‘College GameDay’ host Rece Davis would not be asked to become a sideline reporter for the same reasons.
“I’ve fought through a lot of things in this industry to get to where I am,” she said.
“To me it felt like, ‘Hey, if you have a problem, if it’s this article, if it’s something else, whatever it is, why are you coming to these two women here to solve it?’
ESPN’s HR found no wrongdoing in its investigation of the recording, according to Nichols, who then received a new contract while Taylor was promoted.
‘I think there were still some people who had bad feelings and they held on to this bond for a year,’ she said, ‘when there was a point where they wanted to influence their own situations, gave they it to the press. ‘
Taylor, 35, left ESPN shortly after the shooting was reported for NBC, where she now works as a sportscaster and host of ‘Football Night in America’
Nichols said she thinks Taylor is ‘incredibly talented’ and wished her ‘all the success in the world’
Nichols’ show, ‘The Jump’, was canceled in 2021 and was subsequently removed from all NBA programming.
When a recording of the call leaked and began circulating among ESPN employees, it sparked a crisis, with several of the network’s top talent considering refusing to appear on air in protest.
It also drew ire among black employees at the network, who believed the secretly recorded conversation was a more accurate reflection of white attitudes toward diversity.
Anger boiled over when it became clear that ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro would not discipline Nichols despite demands from employees that he do so.
The only person known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a black digital video producer who reportedly told human resources that she sent the video to Taylor.
Johnson was suspended for two weeks without pay and later given less desirable assignments at work. She left ESPN in 2021 along with other black employees who felt mistreated by the network.
A year after leaving ESPN, Nichols has since been hired by Showtime Sports to contribute to the network’s growing NBA coverage.