ESPN benches Rachel Nichols from NBA Finals sideline duties

Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) moves the ball against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half in game one of the 2021 NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (34) moves the ball against Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) during the second half in game one of the 2021 NBA Finals at Phoenix Suns Arena.
Image: Mark J. Rebilas

Rachel Nichols won't work as the NBA Finals sideline reporter amid tensions with fellow network personality Maria Taylor, ESPN announced Tuesday.

Malika Andrews will replace Nichols as the sideline reporter during the finals, which begin Tuesday night when the Milwaukee Bucks meet the Suns in Phoenix. Sister network ABC will air the game.

"We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals," ESPN said in a statement. "Rachel will continue to host 'The Jump.'"

A New York Times story published Sunday shared videotaped remarks Nichols made about Taylor a year ago. The comments came after Taylor, who is Black, was chosen as the host of the network's "NBA Countdown" show as the season resumed in the NBA bubble. Nichols is White and apparently expected to fill the role.

Nichols reportedly wasn't aware she was being filmed when she said the following:

"I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world -- she covers football, she covers basketball," Nichols said while speaking to Adam Mendelsohn, a longtime adviser of LeBron James. "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 apologized to Taylor and the network on Monday's episode of "The Jump." Nichols has hosted that show since 2016. She returned to the network that year after working for ESPN from 2004-13.

Taylor's contract expires this month, and she and ESPN reportedly aren't close to an agreement with the rising network star.

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