Maria Taylor and ESPN are divorcing, according to The Washington Post, and she is expected to end up with NBC and at the Olympics.
Taylor, 34, leaves ESPN just weeks after the New York Times reported on a year-old private tape of leaked comments in which fellow NBA host/reporter Rachel Nichols claimed ESPN gave Taylor the Finals hosting job to make up for the network’s “crappy longtime record on diversity.”
Taylor is expected to be a part of NBC’s upcoming Olympic coverage, which begins in earnest on Friday, if a contract is completed.
Several sources claim Taylor is headed to NBC, but nothing has been confirmed. The network’s top spokesman is in Japan for the Olympics and did not respond to messages right away. ESPN did not respond to requests for comment. Taylor didn’t respond to my message.
If the NBC deal is finalized, she could be in line to take over as host of “Football Night in America” in the fall of 2022, when Mike Tirico moves to the full-time “Sunday Night” Football play-by-play position. Taylor’s replacement for Tirico isn’t confirmed yet, but it appears to be a good fit. Taylor could also play football for Notre Dame this season.
The New York Times reported on Nichols and Taylor’s situation just two weeks before Taylor’s contract with ESPN expired on July 20. Taylor and ESPN worked out a deal so she could finish the Finals on Tuesday.
She is now expected to join NBC, leaving ESPN to fill her shoes on “College Football GameDay,” the national championship sideline, NCAA women’s host, and NBA pregame work.
According to sources, Nichols will not be considered to replace Taylor as the host of the Finals.
According to sources, ESPN tried to keep Taylor by offering a raise from $1 million to around $3 million.
ESPN made an offer last year that would have topped Taylor’s salary by nearly $5 million, but Taylor declined to negotiate.
ESPN has been cutting salaries as a result of the pandemic, though it recently spent a lot of money to bring in Peyton and Eli Manning for a 10-game season on an alternative “Monday Night Football” broadcast.
When Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football debuts in the fall of 2022, Taylor could be a part of the exclusive broadcasts as a sideline reporter or host, thanks to a partnership between NBC and Amazon. Although sources say they like Taylor’s work, no agreement has been reached with Amazon.
After this year’s Super Bowl, Tirico is expected to take over as NBC’s primary NFL play-by-player from Al Michaels. Michaels’ contract expires after the Super Bowl, and he could be the lead announcer on Amazon’s Thursday Night package.
Meanwhile, Nichols was removed from the NBA Finals bench following the backlash to her comments, but she has continued to host her afternoon show, “The Jump.”
ESPN has defended its record on diversity, including a memo from its chairman, Jimmy Pitaro, to employees that highlighted the company’s record and stated that Taylor “earned” her position on the Finals. NBA commissioner Adam Silver questioned why ESPN did not handle the situation sooner, while ESPN has defended its record on diversity, including a memo from its chairman, Jimmy Pitaro, to employees that highlighted the company’s record and stated that Taylor “earned” her position on the Finals.
Taylor has since left ESPN, while Nichols’ role has been reduced.