ESPN acknowledges that it has diversity issues, and the stream of complaints hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. On the heels of a discrimination scandal, the sports network is set to host a town hall.
On Friday, ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro sent out a companywide memo addressing the recent Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor scandal, as well as sharing the steps the company has made “to improve the experiences of Black employees at ESPN,” as revealed by The Hollywood Reporter.
During the height of the Nichols and Taylor drama, leaked audio revealed the backhanded shade Nichols spewed after Taylor was chosen to be the sideline reporter of the 2020 NBA Finals. At the time, Nichols privately blasted ESPN for using Taylor to seemingly address their “CRAPPY LONGTIME RECORD ON DIVERSITY,” The New York Times reports.
Nichols faced backlash after the audio was leaked. While Taylor took the high road, the drama between the two sports analysts reflected several issues within the ESPN work culture. Was Taylor used to appease viewers during heightened racial tension in 2020, and why was Nichols so intimidated by the thought of another woman taking her spot considering how small the number of women at ESPN already is?
“We respect and acknowledge there are a variety of feelings about what happened and the actions we took,” Pitaro wrote in the memo to ESPN staff last week. “The details of what took place last year are confidential, nuanced and complicated personnel matters. But understand this — we have a much better story than what you’ve seen this week.”
Pitaro also told employees that there would be a town hall later this month where the network will address issues around diversity and inclusion. The chairman also made sure to address Taylor’s hosting position during the Finals last year.
“I do want to be clear on one thing: Maria Taylor was selected as NBA Countdown host last year because she earned it,” Pitaro said. “Please know our commitment is that assignments and opportunities at ESPN are based on merit and any concerns, remarks, or inferences that suggest otherwise have been and will continue to be addressed.”