Houston Rockets detractor Rachel Nichols has been in hot water for practically months now, ever since audio captured Nichols suggesting that her former colleague Maria Taylor was given the primary assignment of covering the 2020 NBA Finals on the sole basis of her ethnicity. Nichols' comments caused a rift at the network, with several reportedly siding with Taylor (and understandably so).
The network attempted to put a band-aid on the situation, as they trucked through the 2020-21 season by keeping Nichols and Taylor from being on the set together. On Wednesday ESPN's executives finally put an end to the uneasiness surrounding Nichols, as they made the sudden decision to pull Nichols off of the network's broadcasts, while also cancelling The Jump, which was their only daily NBA show, as it was also hosted by Nichols.
Many began praising the move by ESPN, as the decision became proof of ESPN "finally doing the right thing." But the network shouldn't receive credit for this decision, for several reasons.
Why ESPN shouldn't be praised for dismissing Houston Rockets detractor Rachel Nichols
For one, they didn't have much of an option but to let Nichols go after the backlash and embarrassment that was aimed in their direction. Also, it shouldn't be ignored that they sat on their hands for an entire year with this situation, as Nichols' comments were made during the NBA bubble.
If this audio hadn't leaked, they likely wouldn't even have made this decision. And by the way, their manner of handling this caused them to lose out on both Nichols and the far more talented Taylor, who left the station after her contract recently ended.
But also, why did they create an "either or" environment between the two hosts? Why couldn't they have fostered a culture in which both women were uplifted?
This is what hasn't been discussed enough as it pertains to the situation. ESPN quite possibly could have prevented this situation from becoming what it was, because they surely could have given Taylor more exposure without taking away from Nichols' opportunity (although an argument could be made that Nichols could have handled the temporary re-assignment much better than she did).
And lastly, why did they have to do away with The Jump altogether? Why couldn't they have given the host responsibilities to Malika Andrews, who is also talented and deserving?
Andrews was given coverage of the 2021 NBA Finals and held her own, to say the least. In fact, many were even of the opinion that Andrews performed better than Nichols in that role.
So why not give her the opportunity to host the show, just like they did for Nichols for so many years? And especially if they were serious about granting equal opportunities, or even merely creating the illusion that they were serious about that?
So all in all, while ESPN may be getting celebrated for deciding to part ways with Nichols, the reality is this was a reactive decision. They painted themselves in a corner and essentially had to do this. But they were equally as responsible as Nichols (although it may be unpopular to say).
And even in making that decision, they went a bit too far, as they should have given someone else the opportunity to host The Jump.