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Maria Taylor Leaving ESPN After Failed Contract Talks amid Rachel Nichols Controversy

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVJuly 21, 2021

Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

NBA Countdown host Maria Taylor will not return to ESPN after failing to come to terms on a contract extension, Taylor and the network announced Wednesday.

"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. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together," ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement.

Taylor's departure from the network has been several months in the making. She is widely expected to join NBC and be part of their upcoming Olympic coverage, per Andrew Marchand of the New York Post.

News of Taylor's exit from ESPN comes weeks after Kevin Draper of the New York Times published a piece detailing behind-the-scenes issues between Rachel Nichols and Taylor. In a private conversation that was accidentally recorded last year during the NBA bubble, Nichols accused ESPN of giving Taylor the hosting duties of NBA Countdown because the network was "feeling pressure about [its] crappy longtime record on diversity."

The comments made by Nichols set off a firestorm behind the scenes at ESPN, as the conversation was disseminated within the company. Taylor continued to host Countdown but refused to work with Nichols, who continued to appear on the program in taped segments. 

Internally, Nichols faced criticism from colleagues at ESPN, with many Black employees feeling the situation "confirmed their suspicions that outwardly supportive white people talk differently behind closed doors."

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When the details of the conversation became public earlier this month, Nichols faced widespread criticism and apologized publicly on The Jump

Taylor seemingly began plotting her exit strategy and reportedly found a new home at NBC, where she will likely be among the most prominent voices in the network's Olympic coverage, though no formal announcement has been made. 

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