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Maria Taylor Is Leaving ESPN After A Colleague's Remarks About Race Went Public

Updated July 22, 2021 at 3:14 PM ET

ESPN host Maria Taylor has announced she is leaving the sports network just weeks after remarks by a colleague suggesting that Taylor was promoted because she is Black became public.

Taylor and ESPN announced the departure in a statement Wednesday, saying "that after much discussion, an agreement on a contract extension could not be reached."

According to ESPN, Taylor's final appearance for the network was Tuesday night's NBA Finals telecast.

In early July, The New York Times reported on a recording of a conversation by ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols. In the July 2020 recording, Nichols, who is white, is heard suggesting that Taylor got her job hosting the marquee program NBA Countdown during the NBA finals because she is Black.

"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," Nichols said in the recording. "Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away."

She was speaking with NBA star LeBron James' longtime adviser Adam Mendelsohn and James' agent Rich Paul.

Nichols was removed from her assignment after the comments became public.

She later apologized on the show The Jump, saying she respected her ESPN colleagues and noting that she was "deeply, deeply sorry" for "disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor."

Taylor left ESPN in part over failed salary negotiations.

After she reportedly requested $8 million pay last year to be in line with some of ESPN's highest-paid personalities, the network offered her approximately $5 million, which she rejected.

This year, amid financial pressures driven by the pandemic, the television station offered Taylor an approximately $3 million salary, which would have roughly tripled her pay but still fell short of the offer she previously declined.

In a statement shared by ESPN, Taylor thanked her colleagues and friends "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 added.

Jimmy Pitaro, chairman of ESPN and Sports Content, praised Taylor's skills and her work at the network.

"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," he said in a statement.

David Folkenflik contributed reporting.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: July 20, 2021 at 11:00 PM CDT
An earlier version of this story incorrectly featured an image of ESPN reporter Kimberley Martin instead of Maria Taylor.
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