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Showtime’s Rachel Nichols Sounds Off-On Her Departure From ESPN & Joining Showtime Basketball

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Earlier this year, It was announced that Rachel Nichols had officially left ESPN after 16 years with the company, according to thehill.com.

On All The Smoke Podcast’s most recent episode, Nichols addresses her departure from the Worldwide Leader in Sports.

“It all started really good a few years ago. We can go back to 2019, three years ago. ESPN gave me a new contract, I’d already been there with The Jump, and in the contract was that I was going to host the NBA Finals. And you guys have known me for years, I have covered this sport for decades, the idea that I was going to host the NBA Finals, that was my dream job. That was going to be my first time doing it. It just meant the world. I mean, I called every executive involved personally to thank them. I was just so, so excited.”

“They put everything in writing in the contract, they put out a big press release about it. And one of the things I asked for in the contract was that any pregame show I did would be a continuation of our daily show, The Jump. Because it was something we started together that I was so proud of, and I just also didn’t want any confusion. There’s a lot of politics at ESPN. And I knew that the NBA Countdown job was still open, and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was trying to horn in on NBA Countdown. I wanted to stay with The Jump, it was important to me. And I thought that making that distinction would really help things.”

Nichols added, “And Maria Taylor ended up getting the NBA Countdown job. I really wanted to make an effort to welcome her, to open my door to her. I sent her flowers when I got the job because I was happy for her.”

So, Stephen Jackson asks, ” What changed how you felt in the workplace?”

“Things got complicated later that season. You all know it was 2020. We had a pandemic. There was the tragic murder of your friend, George Floyd. There were a lot of difficult conversations with this country looking itself in the face and seeing what had to change, what had to be different,” said Nichols.

“And The New York Times did an expose in July of 2020 on racism at ESPN and the lack of opportunities for people of color. And the executives at ESPN said, I think, about what people would expect, ‘We’d like to give people more opportunities, we’re continuing to grow,’ all of those things.”

“Around that same time, I got a phone call asking me would I step aside for Maria to host the NBA Finals and have me go back to being a sideline reporter. They stressed it was my choice, they weren’t telling me to do this, because it was in my contract. But they were putting a lot of pressure on me. I was being told ‘Well, you’re not a team player.’ Which any woman in business knows is code, right? Women are supposed to be kumbaya, and team players, and helpful, and men are aggressive sharks, and all that? I just felt like ‘Hey, I worked so long, decades for this job. I have done everything that was asked. We put on some great shows leading up to the playoffs. And I wanted a chance to do it.”

Nichols then talks about leaving for the bubble and the new equipment she used; this led to the recording of his appeal and its transmission to ESPN headquarters.

“I didn’t know that if you leave a particular app running in the background that the line from my hotel room, looking into my hotel room, to Bristol, would stay open. So I thought I was done for the day. I did the things you would do on your first day in a hotel room, I spent hours unpacking, called my husband, talked to my kids, called some friends, talked to my doctor.”

“Unfortunately, that entire time, nobody back at ESPN told me there was an open line to my hotel room, and anyone who looked at the feed could see me. No one shut it off, decided, ‘Oh, she clearly doesn’t know she’s being watched unpacking, doing all these other things.’ And at least one person decided to just sit and watch and start spying on me like I was their own personal television show. And when they heard something they thought was juicy, they picked up their cell phone, and they started recording my conversation.”

It was also announced that Nichols would be joining Showtime Basketball.

What do you think?

Written by Byron Nelson

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