Maria Taylor officially leaving ESPN after 'diversity' drama with Rachel Nichols

NBA and NFL analyst/host Maria Taylor is officially leaving ESPN, the network announced Wednesday.

According to an ESPN statement, Taylor and the network couldn't come to an agreement on a contract extension. Her final assignment was Tuesday night's coverage of Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic," ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement. "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.”

Taylor also commented on her departure from the network:

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. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”

Taylor, who also covers college basketball and college football for ESPN, didn't announce where she's going next. The New York Post reported that Taylor is close to signing a contract with NBC, and could be part of its Olympics coverage.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: ESPN analyst Maria Taylor reports from the sideline during the Allstate Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal between the Ohio State Buckeyes and Clemson Tigers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2021 in New Orleans, LA. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Maria Taylor is leaving ESPN after both parties were unable to come to an agreement on a contract extension. (Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Strife between Maria Taylor, ESPN

Taylor was recently at the center of a firestorm about race and gender that she had no hand in creating. Last year, after ESPN gave the 2020 NBA Finals hosting job to Taylor instead of her fellow NBA host and reporter Rachel Nichols, Nichols was caught on tape alleging that Taylor, who is Black, was given that job only because of ESPN's "crappy longtime record on diversity."

The recording was leaked internally at ESPN, which caused an uproar among employees. According to The New York Times, who reported on ESPN's internal response two weeks before Taylor's contract was set to expire, ESPN didn't handle the situation well, making promises to Taylor that it almost immediately broke.

Taylor's contract was originally going to expire before the end of the Finals, but she and ESPN reached an agreement for her to continue until the Finals were over. However, despite ESPN reportedly offering her $3 million to stay with the network, she is moving on.

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