On Wednesday, NBA Countdown host and ESPN reporter Maria Taylor announced that she is leaving the company. This news comes less than a month after a New York Times report revealed that despite being deemed a “rising star” at ESPN, Taylor had spent nearly a year pushing the company to discipline a white colleague of hers who said Taylor had only gotten her hosting job because of her race. The white reporter in question, Rachel Nichols, made these racist comments about Taylor during a phone call that was eventually leaked within the company.
Although Nichols gave a decidedly weak apology to Taylor on air during the ESPN show The Jump after the story broke, her meager efforts came literally a year too late. ESPN’s failure to hold Nichols accountable, while instead choosing to discipline the Black digital video producer who admitted to sending the video to Taylor, has reportedly contributed to persistent racial tension within the company. It’s hardly shocking to hear that Taylor chose not to renew her contract.
Although she had been with the company since 2014, Taylor’s contract with ESPN was already close to expiring when the NY Times piece was published, though she agreed to a short-term extension in order to finish out the NBA finals. The New York Post reports that Taylor is close to finalizing a deal with NBC which would have her covering the Tokyo Olympics and potentially being involved in the network’s football coverage in the future.
“So thankful to [ESPN Chairman] Jimmy [Pitaro] 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,” wrote Taylor in a statement. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”