ESPN analyst Maria Taylor is parting ways with the network, weeks after an internal controversy involving Taylor and ESPN anchor Rachel Nichols was made public.
The cable net announced on Wednesday that Taylor and ESPN were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension, making Taylor’s NBA Finals coverage on Tuesday night her final assignment for the network.
“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic,” said ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro in a statement. “There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
Added Taylor, “So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, women’s and men’s college basketball and the NBA Countdown family — the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
Taylor’s exit comes less than three weeks after comments that Nichols had made about her last year became public, which insinuated that Taylor was getting additional opportunities at ESPN because she is Black. In July 2020, during a conversation with LeBron James’ advisor, Adam Mendelsohn, Nichols expressed frustration that Taylor would be hosting coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals, when Nichols was under the impression she would fill that role instead.
“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said during the conversation, the audio of which was shared in a July 4 New York Times article. “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 taking my thing away.”
Following the audio clip’s publication, Nichols apologized on The Jump, ESPN’s weekday NBA show. “I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team,” she said.
Nichols was later pulled off sideline reporting duty at this year’s NBA Finals, and she was replaced by Malika Andrews.
Taylor’s next gig has not been formally announced, but the New York Post reports that she is likely to join NBC soon, beginning with the network’s upcoming Olympics coverage. She had worked with ESPN since 2014, initially joining the cabler as a college sports analyst and reporter, and she began hosting NBA Countdown in 2019 alongside Jalen Rose and Jay Williams.