Leaked ESPN memo addresses ‘complicated’ Maria Taylor-Rachel Nichols mess

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ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro has emerged amid the Rachel Nichols-Maria Taylor spectacle.

Pitaro, who was promoted from president and co-chair to chairman in Oct. 2020, addressed the situation in a memo to ESPN staffers on Friday just over a week after a leaked video exposed white ESPN host Rachel Nichols making “diversity” comments about Taylor, a black rising star at the network, getting one of Nichols’ assignments.

The leaked memo obtained by The Post addressed staff concerns about ESPN’s commitment to “diversity, inclusion and belonging,” and laid out a workplace goal “to improve the experiences of Black employees at ESPN” through the network’s BECE program (Black Employee and Consumer Experience initiative).

“We respect and acknowledge there are a variety of feelings about what happened and the actions we took,” Pitaro wrote, noting that “the details of what took place last year are confidential, nuanced and complicated personnel matters.”

In the leaked audio clip, published by the New York Times, Nichols can be heard discussing her ESPN contract with Adam Mendelsohn — the longtime adviser of Lakers star LeBron James and James’ agent, Rich Paul — and claimed ESPN gave NBA Finals hosting duties to Taylor, despite the gig being a part of her contract.

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Maria Taylor; Rachel Nichols
Maria Taylor; Rachel Nichols
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Nichols then implied that Taylor was chosen for the job because she is black and the network was “feeling pressure” about its “crappy longtime record on diversity.”

Pitaro addressed the reasoning behind Taylor’s NBA Finals move.

“I do want to be clear on one thing: Maria Taylor was selected as NBA Countdown host last year because she earned it,” the ESPN chairman declared. “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.”

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro
Espn President Jimmy Pitaro
Getty Images

Pitaro went on to list the company’s efforts in its BECE program, which the network was touting after enacting it year ago. The memo stated that at ESPN, “63% of our executive leadership team are women and/or people of color.”

Later on in the memo, Pitaro said “everyone owns inclusion,” before discussing how staff can help create a better culture at ESPN.

“It’s the way you treat your colleagues, how you champion your team, how you welcome new ideas and people, and how you make others feel. Each of us is responsible for creating a culture and climate that thrives,” he wrote.

At the conclusion of the memo, Pitaro told staff the company plans to address diversity and inclusion at an upcoming ESPN town hall later this month, where the network will “continue to have focused conversations with the Black and African American community at ESPN in the coming weeks.

“As always, we value an open and honest dialogue,” Pitaro wrote.

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