Rachel Nichols and Adam Mendelsohn prove that White Progressives are scammers

OPINION: The damning leaked audio conversation between Nichols and Mendelsohn that shook up ESPN was proof that you can be an ally in public and privately engage in your own white supremacy.

Adam Mendelsohn and Rachel Nichols, theGrio.com
Adam Mendelsohn and Rachel Nichols (Photo: More Than a Vote/Getty Images)

They smilin’ in your face

All the time, they want to take your place

The back stabbers (back stabbers)

The O’Jays had called it nearly 50 years ago with their 1972 hit “Back Stabbers.” When hearing about the latest ESPN racism scandal, it’s hard to act surprised that some of the most “woke” performing white people had so much B.S. to say when they thought the cameras weren’t rolling. Perhaps this should be a textbook example of why we should always keep a side-eye for white folks who talk the most while still doing the least. 

In this case, a white woman was mad that a Black woman replaced her for a role that the company clearly didn’t need her to fill. 

“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,” Rachel Nichols, an NBA reporter for ESPN, said about her fellow colleague Maria Taylor during a leaked 2020 audio that was recently published by the New York Times. “Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away,” Nichols added.

Girl, bye. 

I’m not sure if it’s the entitlement for me or the horrible attempt to suggest reverse racism. Nichols clearly lost any sense of respect or dignity in her unhinged rant against a Black woman who wasn’t even checking for her. It would take an internal company shaming and other Black employees at ESPN to complain before Nichols would later try to apologize and backpedal — but the damage had already been done. 

ESPN’s Rachel Nichols (left) apologized to colleague Maria Taylor (right) on-air after assertions she made last year were made public in which she suggested Taylor was given a position commentating during the 2020 NBA Finals because she’s Black. (Photos by David Becker/Getty Images and Steve Jennings/Getty Images for ESPN)

What makes this a hotter mess is that she wasn’t alone in her hateration: Nichols trashed Taylor in a conversation with Adam Mendelsohn, an advisor to Lakers superstar LeBron James. And just when you thought he would be the one to tell her to pipe down, Mendelsohn only added fuel to the flame, telling her: “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left.”

Oh, word? Tell us how you really feel. 

Perhaps what makes all of this disappointing is that these two white people thought it was OK to pop off at the mouth during the summer of 2020 — in the middle of a racial uprising that should have taught them better. Considering the fact that Nichols is doing reporting in a field that is predominantly filled with Black athletes, and Mendelson advises one of the most outspoken Black public figures of his generation — this just goes to show that such outward white admiration for Blackness is a facade.

The rise of white progressives revealing their hypocrisy is nothing new. For years, Black people have been reminded that the same people who love to remind us that they voted for Barack Obama are the same people who will turn into Karens in a heartbeat (start with Amy Cooper and work your way down). White celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, and Katy Perry will always find themselves touting their support for the cause, but will turn around and culturally appropriate our cornrows and locs when it’s marketable. 

Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber, theGrio.com
Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber (Photo: Getty Images/Instagram)

This is what’s really “exhausting” and annoying AF. Now more than ever, will white people just figure out where they are on the margins of white supremacy, pick a side, and just stay there? It’s already hard enough having to confront the outwardly confrontational white supremacists — now we must continue to deal with the backstabbers who smile in our face, while all the time they still want to take our place? 

These backstabbers, backstabbers. 

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from controversies such as this is to just go “duly noted” and act accordingly. Farewell to the performative gestures and hashtags that self-proclaimed white progressives love to project in public. Now it’s time to be more skeptical, critical, and self-aware. While Nichols continues to get removed yet again from another NBA Finals (it’s what she deserves), let us collectively consider how much the Black employees at ESPN didn’t deserve to be disrespected like this. 

Forget calling on allies for backup, let’s just be there for our own — because apparently, we’re all we got.

Ernest Owens is the Editor at Large of Philadelphia magazine and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. The award-winning journalist has written for The New York Times, NBC News, USA Today and several other major publications. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram and ernestowens.com.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s “Dear Culture” podcast? Download our newest episodes now!

TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!

Loading the player...