Maria Taylor announces departure from ESPN after Rachel Nichols leak

“While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together,” ESPN said in a statement.

ESPN has announced that Maria Taylor’s contract is ending, and an agreement on an extension could not be reached.

The sports channel said in a statement that Taylor’s last assignment was the NBA Finals telecast on Tuesday. 

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. 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,” said Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN. “While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”

Maria Taylor
Maria Taylor (Credit: Maria Taylor/social media)

In a statement, Taylor said she is “thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family— the people 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,” she continued. 

Taylor had been at ESPN covering college and pro football and basketball since 2014 and most recently served as host of NBA Countdown. Her departure comes weeks after she was thrust into controversy over a leaked audio recording of ESPN host Rachel Nichols claiming the network gave Taylor the Finals hosting gig because of her race.

As previously reported by theGrio, Taylor appeared to react to the audio leak via a post on her Twitter account that noted she had taken some punches but was “still in the fight.”

“During the dark times, I always remember that I am in this position to open doors and light the path that others walk down,” she wrote in a tweet with photos attached featuring happier professional days. “I’ve taken some punches but that just means I’m still in the fight. Remember to lift as you climb and always KEEP RISING.”

Taylor’s remarks came after Nichols offered her a public apology for the triggering comments she made on a hot mic. 

On the recording, she said, in part, “I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. 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.”

She later apologized on her show “for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor” and expressed “how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team.”

Taylor is reportedly being courted by ESPN rival NBC for some high-visibility positions at the network.

She had been in negotiations to extend her deal at ESPN, where she was reportedly offered $3 million a year. Taylor has potentially been offered the chance to host NBC’s high-rated Football Night in America show, host coverage of the Olympics and report for the Today Show.

According to a report from Fox News, Taylor could replace NBC Football Night in America host Mike Tirico, who is said to be eyeing the seat Al Michaels may be departing.

*This story contains additional reporting from theGRIO’s Biba Adams and Tonya Pendleton.

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

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