Rachel Nichols. (306239)
Rachel Nichols. Credit: Twitter

Rachel Nichols, who was expected to be ABC’s sideline reporter for the NBA Finals, did not work that role when the first game of the series tipped off Tuesday night, ESPN announced, reports the Chicago Tribune. She will be replaced by Malika Andrews.

Nichols was the sideline reporter for the finals last year and during ESPN’s most important NBA games this season. Both ABC and ESPN are owned by Disney. “We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals,” ESPN said in a statement.

The decision to have Andrews be the sideline reporter instead was made after the New York Times reported that Nichols, who is White, made disparaging comments about a Black colleague, Maria Taylor. Among other things, Nichols said that Taylor was picked to host NBA Finals coverage last season because ESPN was “feeling pressure” about diversity.

The comments were made during a private phone conversation while she was quarantined in a hotel last July before the NBA resumed its season in Florida. She was speaking with Adam Mendelsohn, the adviser and political strategist who works closely with Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James. The phone call was accidentally captured on camera and uploaded to a server at the company’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut, then spread widely among ESPN employees.

“I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball,” Nichols told Mendelsohn during the call. “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.”