“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.”
—-ESPN sideline reporter Rachel Nichols in a phone conversation nearly a year ago after learning that she would not host coverage during the 2020 N.B.A. finals, as she had been expecting.
The phone call, unbeknownst to her, was being recorded, and someone leaked it to the ESPN brass and the public. The ethical issues raised by that conduct are clear and have been discussed here often: it is a dastardly thing to do, a breach of basic Golden Rule ethics, and indefensible because it creates harm to all involved. But that’s not the issue at hand.
After the video was leaked, many black ESPN employees told one another that it confirmed their suspicions that outwardly supportive white people talk differently behind closed doors. Nichols, seeing the ominous handwriting on the wall, tried to apologize to Taylor with texts and phone calls. Taylor did not respond. Meanwhile, ESPN employees turned against Nichols, whom they perceived as indulging in a “common criticism used by white workers in many workplaces to disparage nonwhite colleagues” when she suggested that “Taylor was offered the hosting job only because of her race, not because she was the best person for the job.”