Maria Taylor finished hosting the NBA Finals for ESPN on Tuesday night, and that will be her last assignment with the network.
Taylor and ESPN both released statements on Wednesday announcing that they could not come to an agreement on a contract extension. ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro thanked Taylor and complimented her on her “remarkable success.” Taylor’s statement also indicated that the split was amicable.
“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 wrote. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
The statements came not long after Andrew Marchand of the New York Post reported that Taylor is leaving ESPN to work for NBC. The 34-year-old is expected to be a part of NBC’s coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, which begin on Friday.
Marchand says Taylor could also become the host of “Football Night in America” when Mike Tirico takes over for Al Michaels as the play-by-play announcer for “Sunday Night Football.”
Taylor’s days with ESPN appeared to be numbered when she reportedly turned down $5 million per year from the network. She was said to be seeking Stephen A. Smith money, and we recently got a better idea of just how much that would be.
Then on July 4, a private audio recording was leaked to the New York Times of Rachel Nichols suggesting that ESPN stripped her of her contractual NBA Finals hosting role and gave it to Taylor to make up for their past poor record on diversity.
Marchand reports that Nichols will receive consideration to get her former job back as NBA Finals host with ESPN. Nichols illustrated with her recent social media activity that she has received a great deal of backlash over the Taylor controversy.
Stephen A. Smith is currently the highest-paid employee at ESPN, and reports have claimed Maria Taylor wants to join him. If Taylor is truly seeking to be paid as much as Smith, we may now have a better understanding of her demands.
Richard Deitsch of The Athletic reported on Friday that Smith currently earns $12 million per year at ESPN. That number was confirmed by Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, who says Smith has an $8 million salary and $4 million production contract.
Smith signed his five-year, $60 million deal with ESPN in 2019.
Where does that leave Taylor? Marchand reported last month that the “NBA Countdown” host and sideline reporter turned down $5 million per year from ESPN last year. She is said to be seeking “Stephen A. Smith” money, but ESPN has since reduced its offer to between $2 million and $3 million.
Agents representing on-air talent at ESPN are obviously going to start negotiations at Smith’s salary, but that does not mean their clients are going to get it. Smith is arguably ESPN’s biggest draw and serves in numerous roles. It feels like he is on the air constantly.
Taylor may threaten to leave ESPN, especially in the wake of the Rachel Nichols controversy. If she refuses to take significantly less money than Smith, ESPN will likely let her walk.
Rachel Nichols may end up losing a third role at ESPN after she was already removed from two, and NBA commissioner Adam Silver made it clear on Tuesday that he does not agree with the way the network has handled the situation.
While speaking with reporters prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Silver called the situation involving Nichols and Maria Taylor “disheartening.” He defended Nichols and said people should be judged by “the larger context of their body of work and who they are and what we know about them” rather than a single comment.
Silver also questioned why ESPN let the issue simmer for so long.
“I think it’s particularly unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other,” he said, via Jason Owens of Yahoo Sports. “I know that both Rachel and Maria are terrific at what they do. They work extraordinarily hard.
“I think part of the problem is that when people can’t get in a room and talk through these issues — this seemingly has festered now for a full year. 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.”
An audio clip that was leaked on Sunday featured Nichols complaining that Taylor was given the NBA Finals hosting job over her last year. Nichols criticized ESPN for its “crappy longtime record on diversity” but said she felt she was more deserving than Taylor. You can listen to the audio clip here.
It’s unclear how long ESPN has known about the recording.
So far, Nichols lost her NBA Finals hosting job to Taylor and lost her NBA Finals reporting job to Malika Andrews. ESPN also chose to cancel Tuesday’s edition of “The Jump,” which Nichols hosts.
An ESPN host completely butchered Chris Evert’s name while talking on air Tuesday.
ESPN was showing a graphic regarding Roger Federer’s accomplishment of reaching the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. The achievement marked Federer reaching his 58th quarterfinal of a major, which is the most in the Open Era.
Federer is ahead of Evert and Serena Williams, who are tied with 54 major quarters. The ESPN host was going down the list and called Evert “avert” rather than the way she pronounces her name, which is EH-vert.
That was embarrassing. Even Evert saw the video and thought so.
Evert is an 18-time major winner and was a longtime No. 1-ranked player in the world. You would hope that someone talking tennis on TV would know her name, but that wasn’t the case for ESPN on Tuesday. I’m surprised the same person got Martina Navratilova’s name right.
Rachel Nichols was slated to serve as the sideline reporter for ESPN’s coverage of the NBA Finals, but the network has removed her from that role in the wake of recent controversy.
ESPN announced on Tuesday that Malika Andrews will replace Nichols as the sideline reporter during the NBA Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns. Nichols will continue to host “The Jump.”
The decision comes after an audio clip that was leaked on Sunday featured Nichols complaining that Maria Taylor was given the NBA Finals hosting job over her last year. Nichols criticized ESPN for its “crappy longtime record on diversity” but said she felt she was more deserving than Taylor. You can listen to the audio clip here.
Taylor will once again host “NBA Countdown.”
Nichols issued a teary-eyed apology during Monday’s edition of “The Jump.”
Katie Nolan’s ESPN show “Always Late with Katie Nolan” has not aired in over a year, but the network has yet to make a formal announcement about it. As many have speculated, the show has been canceled.
Bobby Burack of Outkick was told by sources on Monday that ESPN quietly canceled Nolan’s show. The report comes after people noticed that Nolan changed her Twitter profile to refer to “Always Late” in the past tense.
Nolan signed a multi-year contract with ESPN back in 2017 that reportedly pays her around $1 million annually. Her show initially aired on ESPN+ and was responsible for a couple of viral videos and a Sports Emmy nomination. However, poor viewership resulted in “Always Late” being moved to ESPN2 in September 2019.
Nolan still has her “Sports?” podcast and makes regular appearances on ESPN’s “Highly Questionable.” However, Burack notes that her long-term future with the network is in question now that “Always Late” has been canceled.
You may remember when Nolan briefly made her Twitter private last year following a spat with Jason Whitlock. The profile is public again, and Nolan has more than 600,000 followers.
Rachel Nichols made some remarks about Maria Taylor last year that she was unaware were being recorded, and the comments have reportedly caused an internal rift at ESPN.
The New York Times released on audio clip on Sunday that claims to feature Nichols’ private — or so she believed — thoughts on losing out on the NBA Finals hosting gig job to Taylor last year. Nichols reportedly forgot to turn off her camera while filming “The Jump” inside her hotel room at the Walt Disney World bubble.
The clip, which you can listen to below, shows Nichols expressing frustration that ESPN gave Taylor the NBA Finals job. She suggested that the network should have instead made Taylor its NBA Finals sideline reporter over Doris Burke. Nichols said ESPN was “feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity.”
“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.”
Nichols criticized ESPN for its track record with diversity, but she obviously felt she was more qualified for the NBA Finals hosting job than Taylor.
The clip, which was leaked by an ESPN employee, circulated behind the scenes with the network. Nichols told the New York Times she was just venting to a fellow employee and has apologized to Taylor, though she says Taylor has not yet accepted.
“My own intentions in that conversation, and the opinion of those in charge at ESPN, are not the sum of what matters here — if Maria felt the conversation was upsetting, then it was, and I was the cause of that for her,” Nichols admitted.
As for Taylor not accepting her apology, Nichols said that is “completely fair and a decision I respect.”
Other ESPN employees were also angered by Nichols’ comments and feel that ESPN has shown favoritism with Nichols. Some of the on-air talent with “NBA Countdown” reportedly considered not appearing on the show in response to the Nichols situation, though ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro was able to smooth things over.
Taylor is in the middle of a contract dispute with ESPN and reportedly turned down an offer of $5 million per year from the network. Jalen Rose showed support for her live on the air last week. You can see that video here.
Maria Taylor has become one of the most well-known faces on ESPN, and the network knows it. However, it sounds like the two sides do not see eye-to-eye in ongoing contract negotiations.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, Taylor turned down nearly $5 million a year from ESPN during contract negotiations last year. Taylor was instead seeking “Stephen A. Smith money,” which is roughly in the neighborhood of $8 million per year. Taylor currently makes about $1 million annually in her role as “NBA Countdown” host and lead college football sideline reporter.
ESPN has further reduced the salary offerings since making its initial offer to Taylor. The current offer is said to be between $2 million and $3 million. Taylor has not accepted, and though ESPN wants to keep her, there is a chance the two sides may be forced to part ways. Notably, Taylor’s current contract expires around July 20, which means it is possible that could happen before the conclusion of the NBA Finals she is slated to host.
Taylor ascended to her NBA Countdown post as a replacement for another high-profile name at ESPN. The network likely did not envision these negotiations becoming rocky, but it seems that’s what they are.
Robert Griffin III is, for the moment, still trying to catch on in the NFL for the 2021 season. However, it seems he has another career waiting for him whenever he wants it.
According to Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, FOX and ESPN are in a bidding war over Griffin in the hopes that he will end his NFL career and become a TV analyst. FOX initially showed heavy interest in Griffin, but ESPN wants him badly enough that it spurred them to increase their offer to him. It’s not clear if Griffin plans to retire in order to take either opportunity, but it’s clear that a TV career awaits him whenever he does decide to step away from the NFL.
The reason for the serious interest is apparently because Griffin’s auditions have been fantastic. Marchand adds that sources from both networks were “blown away” by Griffin, and some of them even said his audition was among the best they had ever seen.
ESPN’s offer to Griffin would involve both studio work and opportunities as a color commentator for college games, as well as the chance to appear on other shows during the week. FOX would likely add Griffin to one of its NFL commentary teams while also putting him on its college football studio shows.
Griffin has voiced interest in serving as a mentor for one specific quarterback in 2021. Ironically, he did so as part of a live broadcast that very much hints at his potential as an analyst. The 31-year-old is still young and solid enough to come in and serve as an NFL backup for someone, but the money and the visibility of a high-profile broadcast career may end up being a better option for him at this point.
Photo: All-Pro Reels/Flickr via CC-BY-SA 2.0
Paul Pierce is happy to let his old boss know that he is living his best life.
The retired former Boston Celtics star took to Twitter on Wednesday to clown ESPN after he was let go by the network last month. Pierce bragged about how he had made more money in cryptocurrency over the last month than he made with ESPN in a year.
The 43-year-old Pierce had worked as an analyst for ESPN in the last few years, appearing on programs such as “The Jump” and “NBA Countdown.” But he was fired after streaming an inappropriate Instagram Live video.
Pierce posted a funny video response to being let go where he promised big things to come. Perhaps becoming a crypto king was what Pierce was alluding to all along.