ESPN has been crushed by critics since the network essentially canceled popular NBA reporter and studio host Rachel Nichols, with some mocking the network over “woke” politics and others slamming network executives’ botched handling of the bizarre situation. 

ESPN canceled Nichols’ show, “The Jump,” on Wednesday and it has since been reported that she will not appear on air for the duration of her contract.

“The woke police finding another victim, cancel culture has come ESPN’s own red-haired NBA star Rachel Nichols. She is no more,” Outkick founder Clay Travis said in a video responding to the news that ESPN ditched Nichols. 

“She will cease to exist at ESPN,” Travis said. “What this represents to me, is ESPN further following in the footsteps of the woke universe.”

ESPN has been crushed by critics since the network essentially canceled popular NBA reporter and studio host Rachel Nichols. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

ESPN has been crushed by critics since the network essentially canceled popular NBA reporter and studio host Rachel Nichols. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) ((AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File))


Nichols’ standing at ESPN started to crumble when The New York Times reported on July 4 that she had made comments about Maria Taylor, who is Black, on a hot mic when she didn’t know a private phone conversation inside her own hotel room was being recorded in July 2020. Nichols was venting to a friend that she was unhappy ESPN replaced her with Taylor for the network’s coverage of the 2020 NBA Finals. 

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world. She covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols was heard telling LeBron James’s advisor Adam Mendelsohn. 

“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 things away,” Nichols told Mendelsohn. “This job is in my contract in writing.”

The conversation had been known about by ESPN employees and executives since July 2020 but wasn’t made public until the Times report in July 2021. Taylor, who was in the midst of contract negotiations when the tape was leaked to the Times, has since left ESPN for NBC Sports. 

Travis pointed out that Nichols spent years telling viewers about the “woke bona fides of the NBA” but she simply wasn’t considered “woke enough” for ESPN, as complaining about a Black colleague was frowned upon once the tape became public 12 months after network executives first heard the comments. 

“She lectured America on how brave the NBA was when they pulled their All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina over a bathroom bill that was alleged to target transgender individuals even while the NBA continued to play basketball all around the world in countries such as China,” Travis said. “This is where people who embrace wokeism ultimately go. You are, at some point in time, going to be canceled if you are not woke enough and you work in sports.”


Travis feels ESPN is catering to a tiny subset of sports fans who believe that sports should be intertwined with far-left politics. 

“They are making it clear that if you are not woke enough, even if you had previously been a woke disciple like Rachel Nichols, too bad,” Travis said. “The lesson is clear: you’re either woke or you’re fired. You better keep your mouth shut unless you agree with far left-wing politics infiltrating sports.” 

NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck agrees with Travis and feels the Nichols debacle is “a reminder that backstabbing and feigning outrage are rewarded” in the modern era of wokeness and cancel culture. 

“This entire saga has been one of the most haphazard and maddening you’ll ever see and it’s a massive stain on ESPN. However, they will have learned nothing and will continue with its full-court press to even further wokeness,” Houck told Fox News. 

“Nichols was anything but a conservative and instead a liberal. But her long career having given everything to ESPN and their NBA coverage was summarily cast aside by ESPN as if she was some sort of crude or violent heathen,” Houck continued. “To jettison Nichols in the name of race and hurt feelings on Taylor’s part was the epitome of disloyalty.” 

Houck said the treatment of Nichols isn’t how a “sane company” would handle a longtime employee, let alone anyone. 

“This dumpster fire made clear to the world that pure merit doesn’t matter to the so-called Worldwide Leader in Sports,” Houck said. 


New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand shredded the sports network in a column headlined, “ESPN embarrassed itself during the Rachel Nichols saga.” Marchand didn’t blame politics for the debacle, instead pointing to mismanagement by ESPN executives who he feels botched the situation from the beginning. 

Rachel Nichols was caught venting about Maria Taylor during a private phone call that she didn’t know was being recorded by ESPN. (Getty Images)

Rachel Nichols was caught venting about Maria Taylor during a private phone call that she didn’t know was being recorded by ESPN. (Getty Images) (Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Marchand reported that ESPN will pay Nichols the roughly $2 million remaining on her contract as a result of public backlash to her leaked, private conversation despite not disciplining her whatsoever when network executives first learned about the taped phone call. 

“More than a year ago, ESPN did not do anything of substance about Nichols’ comments when they first found out about them. Nothing. Nada,” Marchand wrote.


ESPN executives didn’t allow Nichols and Taylor to appear on air together once they heard about the private call internally, but didn’t otherwise reprimand Nichols. The Post columnist explained that ESPN even promoted an executive whose job it was to make peace between Nichols and Taylor, but the two never made up. The network only pulled Nichols from the sideline of the 2021 NBA Finals after the private call was leaked to the Times. 

“Who this made sense to was never exactly clear,” Marchand wrote. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has pondered why ESPN didn’t squash the beef prior to the Finals and appeared to support Nichols. “Careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment,” he said during his Finals press conference. 

ESPN is partners with the NBA and typically would listen to Silver, and Nichols remained on air following the Finals. She covered the NBA’s offseason transaction on a regular basis until she was suddenly tossed aside on Wednesday. 

“If there is no secret agreement preventing any legal action, Nichols may have a case to sue,” Marchand wrote, noting Nichols’ leaked, private call occurred in Florida and ESPN recorded it on a server in Connecticut.

“Both states are two-party consent, meaning both parties have to know a taped phone conversation is taking place. In this circumstance, there is some legal fuzziness,” Marchand wrote. “ESPN would not answer a question regarding whether they had paid Nichols more so she wouldn’t sue them.”

ESPN declined to comment when asked the same question by Fox News. 


“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned. Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content,” ESPN senior vice president of production David Roberts told Fox News, ignoring whether or not Nichols was paid to avoid legal action. 

“Nichols brought this upon herself. But from [ ESPN chairman Jimmy] Pitaro on down, ESPN executives failed,” Marchand wrote. “They kept Nichols and Taylor apart. Now, they are both gone. The whole thing was handled in a spectacularly poor manner.” 

Fox News’ Daniel Canova contributed to this report.  

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