NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said it was 'disheartening' to see ESPN's Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor 'pitted against each other.'
Silver made his comments on the ESPN drama during a press conference moments before Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday, USA Today reported.
'It's particularly unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other. Both Rachel and Maria are terrific at what they do. They work extraordinarily hard,' Silver said.
ESPN has pulled Rachel Nichols off of her sideline reporting gig for the NBA Finals ahead of tonight's series opener after the revelation of a 2020 bombshell video in which she suggested African-American colleague Maria Taylor was given a particular studio assignment to promote diversity.
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has said it was 'disheartening' to see ESPN's Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor 'pitted against each other'
ESPN has pulled Rachel Nichols off of her sideline reporting gig for the NBA Finals ahead of tonight's series opener after the revelation of a 2020 bombshell video in which she suggested African-American colleague Maria Taylor was given a particular studio assignment to promote diversity
ESPN executives last year picked Taylor (seen above in August 2019) to host its NBA Countdown pre- and post-game studio show for the duration of the playoffs and the finals
'I would have thought that in the past year, maybe through some incredibly difficult conversations, that ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not,' Silver said.
'I should also say, too, that these issues are not unique to ESPN. As I said, the league is working on its own issues in terms of doing a better job with diversity. It's not just in sports, but in companies around America, there's a reckoning going on.'
In the press conference, Silver also said he had 'confidence in the leadership of ESPN' and his colleagues at Disney but wished that the issues had been handled behind closed doors, USA Today reported.
'What we're seeing in ESPN, it's one thing to talk about the principles around diversity and inclusion, it's something else when it comes to somebody's specific job and how that's handled,' Silver said.
'What I've learned from dealing with these issues in the NBA is that they are incredibly complex.'Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
He continued: 'There's no magic bullets here, and they require a very labor-intensive effort of getting people in the room and working through these issues by talking a lot about them, and then talking even more about them, and creating a climate where people are comfortable saying what's on their mind.'
Silver said people should be given 'the benefit of the doubt - especially when they are 'long-term employees that are in good standing.'
'Careers shouldn't be erased by a single comment. We should be judging people by the larger context of their body of work and who they are and what we know about them,' Silver said.
Nichols' conversation, revealed on Sunday by The New York Times, was recorded by an unknown party during the 2020 NBA season restart at the league's bubble in Florida when Nichols was apparently unaware a camera in her hotel room was still attached to a live microphone following a satellite broadcast.
Nichols will continue to host her show, The Jump, but will be replaced by Malika Andrews on the sidelines. Game 1 of the NBA Finals will air on ABC tonight from Phoenix, where the Western Conference-champion Suns will host the Eastern Conference winners, the Milwaukee Bucks. (Both ESPN and ABC are owned by The Walt Disney Company)
On Monday Nichols apologized to Taylor.
'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,' Nichols said, hosting The Jump on ESPN 2.
'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.'
Former NBA players Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins, Nichols' co-stars on The Jump, expressed support for Nichols.
Nichols confided in Adam Mendelsohn, a public relations and communications strategist
The network, based in Connecticut, has been in turmoil for months, the paper reported, after Nichols' comments were secretly recorded and distributed among colleagues.
Nichols was on the phone to LeBron James' long-time advisor Adam Mendelsohn when she expressed annoyance at being passed over for hosting the NBA finals. She was in a hotel room, inside the NBA 'bubble', but appeared to have mistakenly left her camera on - and the footage was broadcast back to ESPN's headquarters.
Nichols called Medelsohn on July 13, 2020 to ask for an interview with James and another Lakers player, Anthony Davis, who is another client of James' agent, Rich Paul. Mendelsohn also is an advisor to Paul.
During the call, Nichols asked Mendelsohn for advice about how to handle the situation at ESPN, and her being denied the assignment that went to Taylor.
'I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world - she covers football, she covers basketball,' Nichols said.
'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.'
She also noted that the assignment to host NBA finals coverage 'is in my contract in writing,' the newspaper reported.
After Nichols said she planned to await ESPN's next move, Mendelsohn paused, and then said: 'I don't know. I'm exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left.'
Mendelsohn on Monday told CNBC: 'I made a stupid, careless comment rooted in privilege and I am sincerely sorry.
'I shouldn't have said it or even thought it.
'I work to support these movements and know that the people affected by these issues never get to be exhausted or have nothing left. I have to continue to check my privilege and work to be a better ally.'
Rachel Nichols, ESPN's NBA sideline reporter, was heard on a hot mic last year complaining that she was passed over for the role of studio host during the NBA playoffs in favor of a black woman, Maria Taylor. Nichols is seen above in Los Angeles on June 24
When a recording of the call leaked and started to circulate among ESPN employees, it prompted a crisis with several of the network's top talent contemplating a refusal to appear on the air in protest.
It also caused anger among black employees at the network who felt that the secretly recorded conversation was a more accurate reflection of white attitudes about diversity.
The anger boiled over when it became apparent that ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro would not discipline Nichols despite the demands from employees that he do so.
The only individual known to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a black digital video producer who reportedly told human resources that she sent the video to Taylor.
Johnson was suspended for two weeks without pay and was later given less desirable tasks at work. She recently left ESPN along with other black employees who felt mistreated by the network.
There was outrage that Nichols appeared to suggest that Taylor was picked to host the