Internal tension that has been building for a year at ESPN over its handling of racial diversity issues is about to peak, as the network has to make a decision about a star reporter's contract. The issue that started it was whether Maria Taylor, who is Black, or Rachel Nichols, who is white, would host coverage of the NBA playoffs, the New York Times reports. "I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world," Nichols said about the network in a phone conversation last July after being told she wouldn't get the job. "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 inadvertently recorded the conversation—in which she said ESPN was "feeling pressure" about racial diversity—on her camera, and it was preserved on a network server. The recording made the rounds, reaching executives. A debate followed, with some employees arguing ESPN had taken steps to favor Nichols in the past; she hasn't been disciplined over her comments. Others were disturbed by Nichols' suggestion that Taylor was offered the hosting job because she's Black, not because of her ability. ESPN tried to avoid the issue on NBA Countdown by prerecording Nichols' segments, though it sometimes seemed as if she were live with Taylor. Taylor's contract has only weeks to go, and the indications are that it won't be renewed, per the Times. "Simply being a front facing black woman at this company has taken its toll physically and mentally," she wrote ESPN executives. The full piece can be found here. (Read more ESPN stories.)