Rachel Nichols Addresses Cancellation of ESPN's The Jump After Controversial Audio Leak
ESPN has reportedly canceled Rachel Nichols' daytime show, The Jump, and is removing her from the network's NBA programming.
"We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned. Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content," David Roberts, senior vice president of production, said in a statement obtained by Sports Business Journal, which was first to report the news.
Nichols addressed the cancellation of her show on Twitter Wednesday, writing: "The Jump was never built to last forever but it sure was fun."
ESPN did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.
Nichols has hosted the network's daily show The Jump since 2016 and was the sideline reporter for the 2020-21 NBA season. Her removal from the network's programming comes just over a month after Nichols apologized to fellow anchor Maria Taylor for disparaging comments she made about Taylor on a call last year, which were made public.
In July, the New York Times published audio of Nichols' July 2020 call, in which she suggested that Taylor, a Black colleague, had received a new role at the network due to ESPN's "crappy longtime record on diversity." That year, Taylor was named host of ESPN's pregame and postgame coverage of the NBA Finals — a role that Nichols claimed was given to Taylor because of her race rather than her talent.
"I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. 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," Nichols said on her call with communications strategist Adam Mendelsohn, who is an adviser to LeBron James.
According to the Times, unbeknownst to Nichols at the time, her call was being recorded to a server at ESPN's Connecticut headquarters. Someone in Connecticut then recorded her conversation on a cell phone and shared it with others at the network, including executives.
As her comments made headlines, Nichols offered an apology to Taylor on air.
"So the first thing they teach you in journalism school is don't be the story, and I don't plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals. But 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," Nichols said on her show.
In responses to the Times, Nichols said she was "unloading to a friend about ESPN's process, not about Maria" in her July 2020 call, adding, "My own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here — if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her."
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Nichols also said she made attempts to apologize to Taylor via text messages and phone calls but "Maria has chosen not to respond to these offers, which is completely fair and a decision I respect."