ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor interviews Grayson Allen #3 of the Duke Blue Devils following the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3, 2018 in Durham, North Carolina.
Lance King | Getty Images
ESPN announced on Wednesday that Maria Taylor will leave the network, a decision that comes after her colleague Rachel Nichols suggested Taylor got a hosting assignment because of her race.
ESPN said in a statement Wednesday that Taylor’s last assignment as a network host was the NBA Finals telecast on Tuesday and her contract is now over. The company, which is owned by Disney, said the two sides could not agree on a new contract.
“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. 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,” said Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN. “While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
Taylor, 34, likely landed a new hosting job at NBC, according to the New York Post, and she is expected to be part of the network’s Olympics coverage that begins Friday.
Taylor could also potentially become the host of “Football Night in America,” a pregame show on NBC, or have a role on Notre Dame football this season if the NBC contract is finalized, the Post reported.
“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,” Taylor said in the statement on Wednesday. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
The announcement comes weeks after The New York Times revealed details of a July 2020 phone call with Nichols, who is also an ESPN host, and Adam Mendelsohn, communications advisor to Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James.
The conversation was recorded in Nichols’ hotel room in Florida without her knowledge and was fed into ESPN’s control room in Connecticut from her camera. Nichols complained to Mendelsohn about Taylor getting a job hosting ESPN’s pregame and postgame coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals, alleging that the network was trying to make up for its “crappy longtime record on diversity.” Nichols is white and Taylor is Black.
The recording began circulating within ESPN shortly after the call. Nichols was removed from ESPN’s NBA playoffs coverage earlier this month and her popular NBA show, “The Jump,” did not air for one day.
Nichols has reportedly apologized directly to Taylor but was rebuffed.
Disclosure: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the U.S. broadcast rights holder to all Summer and Winter Games through 2032.