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The audacity of Rachel Nichols on full display

If audacity were for sale, it’s apparent that Rachel Nichols bought a lot of it. And now, she’s facing the ramifications of her “purchase.”

On Tuesday afternoon, ESPN announced that Malika Andrews is the new sideline reporter for the 2021 NBA Finals, replacing Nichols.

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

On Sunday, the NY Times released an article detailing significant issues behind the scenes at ESPN ahead of last year’s NBA Playoffs coverage. Specifically, it detailed Nichols’ feelings about her co-worker, Maria Taylor. On a recorded hot mic, Nichols implied that Taylor’s push was due to ESPN cleaning up a terrible track record on diversity.

Along with that, Nichols stated she’d seen the female aspect of ESPN’s stance on diversity. And that if the company wanted to give Taylor more to do, she’s cool with it. However, she felt ESPN could do without giving Taylor assignments meant for her. According to Nichols, that particular job was in her contract.

The NY Times report also detailed a heated conference call between ESPN executives and the broadcast personnel last May. Upon hearing Nichols’ remarks, Taylor objected to appearing in live segments with Nichols. Executives began to push back on Taylor’s request, stating that if Nichols couldn’t appear live, then no reporters could. At this point, Taylor’s fellow NBA Countdown hosts Adrian Wojnarowski, and Jalen Rose voiced their support for Taylor. Wojnarowski even called Nichols a “bad teammate.”

Whew. That’s a lot.

To Nichols’ credit, she didn’t avoid the issue. Nichols addressed it head on, apologizing to Taylor on The Jump.

“So the first thing they teach in journalism school is don’t be the story. And I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic Finals,” said Nichols.

“But I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN. [And] how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt — particularly Maria Taylor — and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”

Well isn’t that nice?

It’s great that Nichols apologized. What she implied is tasteless. And normally when people apologize, the situation should be over. Not with Nichols. Nah, she shouldn’t be out of hot water yet. Not by a longshot. And there is where the audacity mentioned above comes into play.

Like Kanye West rapped, Rachel Nichols has “people in high places like Jesus niece.”

Rachel Nichols could be right in all of this.

ESPN could be trying to fix a diversity issue. And Maria Taylor could be a benefactor of it. If true, Nichols has a point. ESPN could definitely have found a different approach. She claims the NBA Countdown host job is in her contract.

So like it or not, she’s entitled to feel that way. Nevertheless, Nichols is the wrong person to make that claim. And that’s where things get a little interesting.

It’s for one simple reason too. After doing some research, one could argue Nichols has her job because of whom her in-law is.

Nichols’ mother-in-law is legendary broadcaster, Diane Sawyer.

And in case anyone is living under a rock, Diane Sawyer is media royalty. Her name carries significant weight in the broadcast industry. For starters, Sawyer is 60 Minutes first-ever female correspondent. Additionally, Sawyer has anchored Good Morning America and ABC World News Tonight. ABC and ESPN are both share the same parent company, Disney. One could surmise that a phone call from Sawyer goes a long way.

Now let’s connect some dots.

Rachel Nichols and her husband, Max, married in 2001. Three years later, Nichols began working for ESPN. 

See where this is going?

If Nichols wanted to move up in her career, is there anyone better than Sawyer to tap for help?

Rachel Nichols has a great resume. She has worked for several media outlets as a sports reporter before ESPN. She has credibility. And being honest, Nichols is damn good at her job. Her work as a sideline reporter and on The Jump place her among the best in the business. 

Insinuating that Nichols’ rise is due to her relation to Diane Sawyer would be disrespectful and a slap in the face. Along those same lines, it’s a slap in the face for Nichols to imply ESPN’s “promotion” of Maria Taylor is a diversity move. 

Despite Nichols’ feelings, ESPN could have thought Taylor was better for the job. And with her resume, it could be a difficult pill for Nichols to swallow.

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