ESPN host/reporter Maria Taylor made it official on Wednesday, jointly announcing with the network that she is leaving ESPN weeks after a firestorm erupted over comments made by fellow reporter Rachel Nichols. “So thankful to [ESPN Chairman] Jimmy [Pitaro] 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,” Taylor said in a statement. “Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
Drama had overtaken the network in recent weeks after the New York Times reported on a leaked private tape of Nichols expressing frustration that ESPN was passing her over in favor of Taylor, who is African-American, in what she described as a “diversity” move. Nichols, who is white, publicly apologized to her colleague earlier this month but acknowledged that Taylor had not been receptive to any private outreach. ESPN’s decision not to discipline Nichols over the remarks, which were made last year, had been an “active source of pain” at the network, per one Times source.
Taylor’s ESPN contract was just about to expire right when the New York Times story hit earlier this month, and she actually agreed to a short-term extension with ESPN to finish the NBA Finals this week. According to the New York Post, Taylor is close to finalizing a deal with NBC that would see her immediately covering the Tokyo Olympics and potentially have roles in the network’s football broadcasts.