What’s next for Rachel Nichols after breaking up with ESPN?



In 2014, Rachel Nichols was the sports media’s anointed badass.

After the horrific video of Raven’s wide receiver Ray Rice brutally beating his then-girlfriend in an elevator in Atlantic City, the NFL was forced to publicly face the domestic violence issue in the league.

However, Commissioner Roger Goodell had to reckon with Nichols.

During a press conference in New York City, the then-CNN reporter put his feet in the fire and challenged him on the balance of power in the League and on Robert Mueller’s attitude to conduct an investigation into his ties to the League. More importantly, she challenged his claim that the NFL attempted to get the elevator video, which city prosecutors essentially denied that it had been formally requested.

“Nothing is personal between Roger Goodell and me,” she said later said the wrap. “I actually think he’s smart and interesting, but there are questions to ask. The NFL needs to understand that fans want answers to things like how to deal with the domestic abuse problem. “

Nichols was instantly trending on Twitter. Sports media blog Awful Announcing said she was the “star” of the press conference. Sports Illustrated called them “the most influential and prominent sports journalist in the country.“And someone even edited their Wikipedia page and changed their job title to“ Owner of Roger Goodell ”.

In 2016, she was lured back to ESPN, where she remained a prominent face, hosting “The Jump” and taking on numerous other NBA roles.

But then the 47-year-old touched a third track in a particularly tense time in our culture: Race.

Last week, ESPN unceremoniously canceled their show and removed it from all NBA coverage, essentially breaking ties with the once lionized reporter.

“I have to create an entire show and spend five years hanging out with some of my favorite people and talking about one of my favorite things. Everlasting thanks to our great producers and crew – The Jump was never built to last, but it was definitely fun. There is more to come … ”she wrote on Twitter.

The crime that led to her death and a firestorm within ESPN? Nichols was on a call complaining to LeBron James’ agent Adam Mendelsohn that ESPN accepted her contractual position to host the NBA finals and turned over Maria Taylor, who is black, to make up for her “shitty longstanding record” on diversity .

Former ESPN broadcaster Maria Taylor was the focus of the ESPN firestorm over Nichols’ leaked phone call.
NBAE via Getty Images

The conversation took place in her Disney World hotel room when she was covering the 2020 NBA playoffs during the pandemic bubble. It was captured by the network’s camera, which was broadcast to their Connecticut offices and recorded on a cellphone by an agent who showed it to colleagues. according to the New York Times.

It was probably recorded illegally as well.

Given that both Connecticut and Florida are two-party consent states, which means both individuals must consent to inclusion, experts have said that Nichols has a strong legal battle against ESPN.

“I don’t think ESPN has a leg to stand on,” Matt Netti, an attorney in the office of the general counsel of Northeastern University and a contributor to the sports law firm Conduct Detrimental, told The Post. “I should hope, for her own sake, that you reached an agreement with her and paid her a lot of money.”

Describing the tape as a violation of the bilateral consent laws, he added, “Even if it was a one-party state, it appeared that neither Nichols nor Mendelsohn knew it was being recorded. This video was most likely illegally recorded and distributed. “

Netti said she might have a privacy invasion case. “She had a right to feel safe and that this conversation was private,” he said. ESPN is also guilty of a “standard breach of contract,” he added, since they have taken her off her assignment in the first place.

ESPN declined to comment and a Nichols representative did not respond to a call from The Post.

Although the video didn’t show up until a year later, the public episodes and her subsequent fall passed fairly quickly.

After the story broke, Nichols apologized to Taylor, who was in the middle of contract negotiations and landed at NBC Sports in late July. But the damage was done. Many found their statements to be insensitive to race.

In the cutthroat industry, Nichols was known for her sharp elbows and extremely competitive propensity to land high profile interviews. Their approach rubbed some colleagues in the wrong direction, with ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski describing Nichols as a “bad teammate”. But it was the same ambition and confidence that propelled Nichols to the top of a male-dominated field.

Nichols interviews NBA superstar LeBron James.
NBAE via Getty Images

As she told “The EspnW”, the grouchy interviewed her about her new role in 2016 in the network: “There is a point at which you have to decide what is more important to me. Is it more important to me what I think of what I do or what people around me think of what I do? And when you decide that what you think is important, it is first of all very liberating and also a North Star … I trust my instincts. “

It seems that she has always had an in-house career compass. Nichols grew up in Potomac, Maryland, where her father was a lawyer and her mother worked for the National Institute of Mental Health. She played soccer as a child and began to hone her passion for journalism in her twenties.

“I knew it pretty early. I was in middle school in the school newspaper and never really stopped, ”she said said Midwest Sports fans.

“Sport seemed like the best performance to me from the start. As a child, the idea that people were paid to do a living doing exercise seemed like getting paid to take breaks. As an adult, I still think that sometimes. “

She graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1995 and made her first appearance as a sports journalist at the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. She went on to feature on the Capitals in the Washington Post, appeared on local news broadcasts, and caught the attention of ESPN suits.

In 2004 it was hired by the “global leader in sports” and became a staple of NFL and NBA coverage. In 2013, she moved to CNN to host Unguarded, where she interviewed athletes like Derek Jeter, LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather who pushed her to share his story of domestic violence.

Nichols is married to Max Nichols, the stepson of news anchor Diane Sawyer
Nichols is married to Max Nichols, the stepson of news anchor Diane Sawyer.

While her career has been based on uncovering the human side of athletes, the married mother is much more cautious about her private life and rarely gives insight into her own family.

In 2001 she married music manager Max Nichols, the son of the late Mike Nichols, who directed The Graduate. He is also the stepson of news legend Diane Sawyer. The couple met as teenagers at summer camp in Maine and reunited as adults. They have 10 year old twin daughters.

It is unclear where she is going from here. But she has a very powerful ally in her corner: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who seemed to realize that her accomplishments are extensive, groundbreaking, and once set an industry standard.

“Careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment,” he said after the tape leak, adding, “We should judge people based on the larger context of their work and personality.”


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