ESPN and on-air host Maria Taylor will part ways after the two parties failed to reach a contract extension, ESPN said Wednesday.
The departure of Taylor, who most recently hosted ESPN’s NBA Countdown pre-game and halftime show during the NBA Finals, comes weeks after she was embroiled in a controversy surrounding disparaging comments made against her by ESPN personality Rachel Nichols in a leaked 2020 phone call stating that Taylor was chosen as NBA Countdown host to cover up the network’s “crappy” record on diversity. Nichols eventually apologized for her remarks, but shortly after was pulled as a sideline reporter for this year’s NBA Finals telecasts and replaced with Malika Andrews.
Taylor's last assignment for the network was Tuesday night’s NBA Finals telecast on ABC, according to ESPN.
“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic,” said Jimmy Pitaro, ESPN and sports content chairman, in a statement. “There is no doubt we will miss Maria, but we remain determined to continue to build a deep and skilled talent roster that thoroughly reflects the athletes we cover and the fans we serve. While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”
Taylor added in a statement: “So thankful to Jimmy 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. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.