ESPN removes Rachel Nichols from NBA programming, cancels 'The Jump'

Rachel Nichols' time on ESPN airwaves appears to be over.

The network is removing the longtime reporter and host from all NBA programming and canceling her weekday show "The Jump." ESPN senior vice president of production David Roberts confirmed the decision to Sports Business Journal's John Ourand on Wednesday.

“We mutually agreed that this approach regarding our NBA coverage was best for all concerned,” Roberts told SBJ in a statement. “Rachel is an excellent reporter, host and journalist, and we thank her for her many contributions to our NBA content.”

Nichols confirmed the news on Twitter while thanking her production crew from "The Jump" with a promise of "more to come."

Rachel Nichols done after fallout over Maria Taylor comments

Nichols still has more than a year left on her contract, but she is not likely to appear on the network during that time, according to the report. The news of Nichols' exit arrives less than two months after a New York Times report exposed internal strife at ESPN over comments Nichols made about colleague Maria Taylor during the 2020 NBA bubble suggesting that she rose to her position on ESPN airwaves because of a diversity effort rather than her merits. Nichols is white and Taylor is Black.

Since that report, ESPN removed Nichols from its NBA Finals coverage, and Taylor left the network for NBC Sports at the conclusion of her contract in July.

CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 20:  ESPN sideline reporter Rachel Nichols before a game between the New York Giants and the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium on September 20, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Giants won 36-7.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Rachel Nichols will no longer cover the NBA for ESPN. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

More changes reportedly coming at ESPN

According to SBJ, "The Jump" will continue to air for the next couple of weeks without Nichols. ESPN will produce a new afternoon NBA show prior to the start of next season to replace it. Roberts spearheaded the Nichols decision after taking over his role overseeing the network's NBA coverage two weeks ago and has more changes in store for its studio coverage of the league, per SBJ.

While news of Nichols' comments broke in July, they had festered internally at ESPN for a year. She made the comments on a call with longtime LeBron James adviser Adam Mendelsohn. She reportedly did so unaware that a camera nearby was still rolling and recording the conversation on ESPN servers.

What Nichols said

An ESPN staffer saw the video, recorded it on their cellphone and shared it internally before it was leaked to media, according to The Times.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols said in the leaked audio. “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 made her comments after ESPN decided that Taylor, not Nichols, would host the network's pregame show "NBA Countdown" during the 2020 Finals. According to The Times, Taylor refused to work on air with Nichols after seeing video of her comments. Taylor continued in her role as "NBA Countdown" host through the 2021 Finals prior to her departure for NBC Sports.

Nichols joined ESPN as a reporter in 2004 primarily covering the NFL and NBA. She left the network for CNN and Turner Sports in 2013 before returning to ESPN in 2016, when she started hosting "The Jump."