Maria Taylor is leaving ESPN after the two sides were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension. Taylor had been with ESPN since 2014, but her contract expired Tuesday. Her last assignment for the network was Tuesday night at the NBA Finals, where she was the pregame and postgame host for the network's NBA Countdown show, the AP reports. In a statement, Taylor thanked ESPN's chairman and her coworkers at the SEC Network, women's and men's basketball, and NBA Countdown, "the people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up." Taylor added that "words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud." Taylor had hosted NBA Countdown since 2019 as well as being a reporter for College GameDay and ABC Saturday Night Football since 2017.
ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said 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." ESPN and Taylor had been discussing a contract for over a year, but things reached a boiling point over the past month. Taylor rejected an extension last year, and the two sides were far apart heading into the NBA Finals. Then came a New York Times report detailing comments her colleague Rachel Nichols made about Taylor last year. Nichols, who is white, was announced in September 2019 as the NBA Finals host, but the network later decided to promote Taylor, who is Black. In an accidentally recorded phone call, Nichols suggested that Taylor was promoted to help correct the network's poor record on diversity. Nichols later apologized.
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