ESPN and Taylor were unable to reach an agreement on her contract extension, the statement said. Taylor hosted coverage of the NBA finals, which concluded on Tuesday with the Milwaukee Bucks winning the NBA championship. It was Taylor’s final day with the network.
“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic,” ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in the statement. He later added, “While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
Taylor thanked Pitaro and her colleagues who “believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up,” she said in the statement.
The exit comes two weeks after ESPN’s “The Jump” host Rachel Nichols made headlines over comments she made about Taylor in July last year.
In a leaked phone conversation that she accidentally recorded, Nichols, who is white, suggested to Adam Mendelsohn, a longtime adviser to Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James, that Taylor got the gig to host the 2020 NBA Finals pregame and postgame shows because of her race.
She suggested that Taylor, who is Black, was selected due to ESPN executives “feeling pressure” to address its “crappy longtime” diversity problems, according to the recording obtained by The New York Times.
Nichols’ remarks sparked widespread backlash online this month, and they have apparently fueled rising tensions over racial issues within the network after her leaked audio was passed around by ESPN employees last year, according to the Times report.
Pitaro sent a memo to staff addressing the controversy surrounding Nichols’ remarks, saying, “The details of what took place last year are confidential, nuanced and complicated personnel matters,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.
“I do want to be clear on one thing: Maria Taylor was selected as ‘NBA Countdown’ host last year because she earned it,” he added.