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Sports Host Rachel Nichols, A Year After Controversy-Clouded Exit From ESPN NBA Role, Resurfaces At Showtime

Deadline
Deadline
 2022-09-30
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Rachel Nichols , a veteran sports TV host whose lengthy ESPN tenure was cut short by controversy, is finally re-emerging in a new on-air home.

She is joining Showtime Basketball, a new content vertical on the Paramount Global premium network, and will contribute to multiple programs and projects. Along with the announcement of her new corporate address, Nichols took part in her first sit-down interview about the circumstances surrounding the ESPN situation.

In 2021, Nichols was removed from The Jump , ESPN’s signature NBA show, and the show was canceled after an audio recording surfaced including comments Nichols, who is white, made about former colleague Maria Taylor , who is Black. Nichols contends that an ESPN staffer recorded her without her knowledge via a remote-video hookup and then supplied the recording to The New York Times . The news outlet framed the audio as evidence of racial insensitivity directed at Taylor. (Taylor also has decamped since, for NBC Sports. ) Nichols later settled with the network, but in the interview with All the Smoke , a Showtime video podcast hosted by former NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Nichols describes what she says were extreme restrictions on her options during and immediately after an internal ESPN investigation into the matter.

In the All the Smoke conversation, Nichols pushed back on the characterization of her exit by The Times and other outlets. She said her contract extension in 2019 had included a stipulation that she would be the studio host for the ESPN/ABC coverage of the NBA Finals on NBA Countdown , which she called “my dream job.” When Taylor was positioned in 2020 to host Countdown instead, Nichols said, “I thought, ‘I have worked so long for this’ … I wanted the chance to do it.” When she vented to a friend about the situation during the bubble environment in Florida in 2020, a colleague cherrypicked material from that conversation.

Nichols, who has developed a specialty in NBA coverage during her 25-year career, will join a roster at Showtime that includes Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, JR Smith and Twitter influencer Josiah Johnson.

“We are delighted to welcome Rachel Nichols to the Showtime Basketball family,” said Brian Dailey, SVP Sports Programming & Content at Showtime Networks. “Rachel brings unmatched journalistic credibility, great familiarity with our roster and a work ethic that will take us to another level.”

Nichols created and hosted The Jump from its inception as a daily ESPN show in 2016 to 2021. She has also covered multiple Super Bowls, World Series, Stanley Cup Finals, Olympic Games and tennis and golf majors, after nearly a decade writing for the Washington Post . At Turner Sports from 2013-16, she hosted Unguarded with Rachel Nichols on CNN, covered the NBA for TNT, the NCAA men’s basketball tournament on CBS and TBS, the MLB playoffs on TBS, the NFL and boxing. During her first stint at ESPN starting in 2004, she covered the NFL, NBA, contributed as a correspondent for E:60 and appeared on SportsCenter .

“I’ve been so fortunate to live my dream job alongside some of the best journalists in the business for more than 25 years, and this new development deal with Showtime Sports gives me my most broad playing field yet,” Nichols said. “They’ve asked me to produce, create and host new sports programming across platforms, working alongside Hall of Famers, multiple guys with championship rings and an uber-creative team behind the camera. We’re going to have so much fun.”

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