ESPN replaces Rachel Nichols as sideline reporter for NBA Finals

ESPN is replacing Rachel Nichols as its main sideline reporter for the NBA Finals beginning Tuesday after behind-the-scenes remarks by the longtime reporter and television personality sparked controversy inside and outside the network.

Nichols, who is white, will be replaced by Malika Andrews, who is Black.

“We believe this is best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals. Rachel will continue to host The Jump,” ESPN said in a statement to The Hill.

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The New York Times over the weekend published an explosive story that made public behind the scenes tensions on ESPN's basketball programming over remarks Nichols made about Maria Taylor, who is set to host the halftime and pregame shows for ESPN's coverage of the finals. 

Nichols, who according to The New York Times report had it in her contract to serve as the host of the halftime show, criticized her company's efforts on diversity and suggested this had resulted in her being replaced by Taylor.

She made the remarks during a conversation with an adviser to Los Angeles Lakers superstar Lebron James, Adam Mendelsohn, that was videotaped. The internal videotape was then leaked throughout ESPN, raising tensions. 

Nichols, who has been an ESPN reporter for 16 years, issued an apology Monday on her daily NBA show “The Jump.”

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"The first thing they teach you in journalism school is don’t be the story, and I don’t plan to break that rule today or distract from a fantastic finals," Nichols said

"But I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how much I respect, how much I value our colleagues here at ESPN, how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor, and how grateful I am to be part of this outstanding team," she said.

Taylor, who has been a host and reporter for ESPN since 2014, is currently negotiating a new contract with the company. Her current deal expires July 20.

According to the Times story, she had not accepted previous apologies from Nichols over the videotaped remarks. 

The Hill has reached out to ESPN for comment.