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Maria Taylor leaving ESPN after no agreement on contract

Maria Taylor, an ESPN sideline reporter, host and analyst for much of the last decade, is leaving the network to pursue a new opportunity, ESPN said.
Credit: AP
ESPN's Maria Taylor works from the sideline during the first half of an NCAA college football game between Miami and Florida Saturday, Aug. 24, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

BRISTOL, Conn. — Maria Taylor and ESPN are officially parting ways, the two parties announced on Wednesday, noting that Taylor's last assignment was Tuesday night's NBA Finals finale.

The split comes after ESPN said the two parties could not come to an agreement on a contract extension.

Taylor, 34, has been a sideline reporter, host and analyst for ESPN networks since 2013.

So thankful to Jimmy (Pitaro) 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," Taylor said in a statement.

ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro said in a statement that Taylor chose to pursue a new opportunity. 

“Maria’s remarkable success speaks directly to her abilities and work ethic. 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," Pitaro said in a statement. "While she chose to pursue a new opportunity, we are proud of the work we’ve done together.”

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Reports of contract negotiation failures and a possible impending split between Taylor and ESPN have become public in recent months. Most, notably the rumors intensified earlier this month when a recording of a phone conversation, which happened last year, was released.

A New York Times report detailed how one of the ESPN's star sports broadcasters, Rachel Nichols, who is white, was heard on a recording suggesting that Taylor -- a Black woman -- was given a hosting assignment to help the network with its diversity efforts.

The assignment was ESPN's broadcast of the NBA Finals last year, where executives at the network are said to have selected Taylor over Nichols, making Taylor their primary host for the broadcast. 

Hours before the start of the 2021 NBA Finals earlier this month, ESPN announced Rachel Nichols would not serve as the sideline reporter after controversial comments she made regarding diversity at the network were leaked. 

Nichols had been ESPN's primary sideline reporter and was slated for that role again.

ESPN said in a statement reported on by the New York Post, “We believe this is the best decision for all concerned in order to keep the focus on the NBA Finals." The statement continued with, “Rachel will continue to host 'The Jump',” which is Nichols' daily NBA show that airs on ESPN 2.

Instead of Nichols, Malika Andrews handled sideline reporter duties for the NBA Finals.

While details of Taylor's next opportunity have been made public as of writing, New York Post sports media columnist Andrew Marchand reports that Taylor is likely to wind up at NBC Sports and is expected to be part of its upcoming Olympic coverage.

Marchand reports Taylor could potentially have a role in NBC's Sunday Night Football programming this fall and Notre Dame college football programming. 

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