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Maria Taylor is leaving ESPN after failing to reach a salary agreement with the sports network before her contract expired.

Taylor, who had been with ESPN since 2014, taped her last segment with ESPN's "NBA Countdown" on Tuesday night. Her contract expired on Tuesday.

Taylor and ESPN discussed contract negotiations for a year before she departed. The network originally offered her $5 million before the Covid pandemic shut down the country in 2020.

Last month ESPN offered Taylor $3 million - three times her salary at the time.

Taylor was virtually unknown until Rachel Nichols catapulted her into the national spotlight.

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The New York Times published an article detailing a secretly recorded phone call made by colleague Rachel Nichols griping about Taylor's diversity promotion.

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Nichols, who is white, was upset at losing the 2020 NBA Finals hosting gig to Taylor because she was Black.

Nichols said:

"I wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world — she covers football, she covers basketball. If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away."

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A racial firestorm is brewing between ESPN anchors Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.

Rachel Nichols is a well-known NBA sports reporter, anchor and host of ESPN's daily sports magazine "The Jump."

Her sports IQ and professionalism has earned Nichols the respect of top tier athletes who know her on a first-name basis.

Most sports fans had never heard of Maria Taylor until someone leaked Nichols' private phone conversation from last year.

In the audio clip, obtained by the New York Times, Nichols voiced her disappointment that Taylor was given NBA Finals hosting duties in 2020.

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Nichols, who is white, believed that Taylor, who is Black, got the coveted gig because of the explosive protests following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Taylor is pictured interviewing Grayson Allen of the Duke Blue Devils in 2018.

Nichols made the comments last July in a private phone conversation with Adam Mendelssohn, an adviser to L.A. Lakers star LeBron James and his agent Rich Paul.

At the time, Nichols was in quarantine at a Walt Disney World resort near the NBA bubble in Orlando, as part of the NBA's Covid protocol.

Alone in her room, she used a video camera to host "The Jump" and appear in ESPN's pregame and post-game shows.

Nichols was seeking advice from Mendelssohn on how to handle the tense situation with Taylor.

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She suggested that ESPN favored Taylor because of the color of Taylor's skin and ESPN's "crappy" history on diversity.

"I just want them to go somewhere else — it's in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing," Nichols told Mendelsohn.

During a pause in their conversation, Mendelsohn, who is white, said, "I don't know. I'm exhausted. Between Me Too and Black Lives Matter, I got nothing left."

Nichols laughed, apparently in agreement.

Unbeknownst to Nichols, the video camera was still on and recording her phone conversation with Mendelssohn. The recording was live-streamed to a server at ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Conn., according to the NY Times.

Multiple ESPN staffers had access to the server. Someone used a cellphone to record the audio off the server. The audio clip soon made the rounds at ESPN.

The audio clip was not made public until now.

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The leaked audio clip confirmed the suspicions of several Black ESPN employees who believe their white colleagues support Black Lives Matter in public but act differently behind closed doors.

Nichols has apologized to Taylor via email and text, but Taylor has not responded.

Taylor, who is holding out for "Stephen A. Smith money", will likely part ways with ESPN when her contract expires in three weeks.

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One ESPN source told the Times ESPN's decision not to punish Nichols was an "active source of pain".

The only person to be punished was Kayla Johnson, a Black digital video producer, who confessed to ESPN's human resources that she sent the audio clip to Taylor.

Johnson was suspended for two weeks without pay, and demoted to a less desirable position, according to the Times.

Johnson later quit her job, along with several other Black ESPN staffers who tendered their resignations.

Twitter

Naomi Osaka plans to skip press conferences at the upcoming French Open, citing mental health of the athletes.

In a lengthy social media post, Naomi said some sports reporters disregard the mental health of players after a tough loss.

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Naomi said she will skip press conferences and pay the hefty fines ($20,000), which she hopes will go towards a mental health charity.

"Hey everyone -

Hope you're all doing well, I'm writing this to say I'm not going to do any press during Roland Garros. I've often felt that people have no regard for athletes mental health and this rings true whenever I see a press conference or partake in one.

We're often sat there and asked questions that we've been asked multiple times before or asked questions that bring doubt into our minds and I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me. I've watched many clips of athletes breaking down after a loss in the press room and I know you have as well.

I believe that whole situation is kicking a person while they're down and I don't understand the reasoning behind it. Me not doing press is nothing personal to the tournament and a couple journalists have interviewed me since I was young so I have a friendly relationship with most of them.

However, if the organizations think that they can just keep saying, 'do press or you're gonna be fined,' and continue to ignore the mental health of the athletes that are the centerpiece of their cooperation then I just gotta laugh.

Anyways, I hope the considerable amount that I get fined for this will go towards a mental health charity.
xoxo."

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Atlanta-based NBA reporter Sekou Smith passed away Tuesday. He was 48. His exact cause of death wasn’t given, but Smith had tested positive for Covid-19.

Smith was a sports analyst and reporter on NBA TV and NBA.com. He worked out of the Turner Sports offices in Atlanta.

Before joining Turner, Smith was an Atlanta Hawks beat writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver called Smith "one of the most affable and dedicated reporters in the NBA."

NBA stars reacted to the news of Smith's passing on social media.

Chris Paul tweeted: "Man today just got a little heavier... my condolences to Sekou's wife, family, friends, and extended NBA family. What a kind and compassionate man we just lost."

Retired NBA star Dwyane Wade wrote: "I've never had anything but positive interactions and conversations with Sekou Smith. Our prayers go out to the Smith family. We lost a good one. Rest in Heaven."

In a tribute on NBA TV, reporter Matt Winer referred to Smith as "a journalist's journalist. Skeptical. Endearingly cranky. Always passionate about the subject matter he loved though: sports. And most importantly, a devoted husband and father. A great friend to so many of us here..."

Smith leaves behind a wife, Heather, and three children, Gabriel, Reilly and Cameron.
&nbs;

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NFL reporter Vaughn McClure, who covered the Atlanta Falcons for ESPN, was found dead in his apartment near Atlanta this week. He was 48.

No cause of death was released, but a source said he complained of headaches in the days leading up to his death.

McClure reported on the firing of Falcons coach Dan Quinn on Wednesday. He was a regular contributor on ESPN's television and radio coverage of the Falcons and the NFL.

Tributes poured in on social media from around the sports world.

"We all loved Vaughn," said John Pluym, senior deputy editor for digital NFL coverage at ESPN.

"He had a heart of gold. He was so helpful to our reporters. In the last few hours, we've heard so many stories about how Vaughn had helped them with a story or how he put in a good word for them with a coach or player."

A Chicago native, McClure spent six seasons covering the Chicago Bears for the Chicago Tribune before being hired at ESPN in September 2013.

"Vaughn McClure made you feel like a celebrity every time you saw him. I simply cannot believe he is gone. Absolutely crushing," tweeted Dan Graziano.

McClure's last Instagram post in June detailed his struggle with depression following the deaths of his parents, brother and sister.

He captioned a photo of himself with his late father:

"For me, I'm still trying to get over the depression of losing you, Mom, Mark, & Nona. With my big sis dying at age 38 and lil bro at 27, I wonder sometimes how much time I've got left. I want to live long. I've told myself no matter what, I want to honor the memories of all four of you while I’m alive."

 

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Dad, This is the first Father’s Day without you, and we would have celebrated your birthday Tuesday. But you’re in Heaven, and sorely missed. I’m so glad God allowed me to spend extensive time with you before you joined Him up there. You’re not missing anything down here, actually. This world is messed up. For me, I’m still trying to get over the depression of losing you, Mom, Mark, & Nona. With my big sis dying at age 38 and lil bro at 27, I wonder sometimes how much time I’ve got left. I want to live long. I’ve told myself no matter what, I want to honor the memories of all four of you while I’m alive. The only way to do that is to give everything I have no matter what obstacles I encounter. I don’t know where I’d be right now without the support of Vaurice Patterson, Nick Gialamas, Mike Wells, and Chris Burt. I’d be down and out, honestly. But those guys constantly lift me up. If you were here now, Dad, we would have plenty to discuss. There’s so much hate going on in America, so much racial injustice. It makes me think about the support you gave me the time I got beat down with clubs by six white police officers 20 years ago when I was trying to be a peacemaker and take a drunk friend home. It took a black officer’s phone call to the DA’s office to clear my name when I did nothing wrong in the first place. I’ve held a lot of hate in my heart for years because of that incident, but Mom always told us the Bible said to love your enemies. I regret that you and I didn’t have more discussions about race. Our conversations centered around the Bulls and Bears because sports brought us closer together. But I wish I would have shared with you some of the racial injustices that I encountered, including one even more traumatic than getting beat down by those cops. I’m not going to sit here and say I’ve been the victim of racism all my life. Heck, I deserved some of the bad things that happened to me because I’ve let my anger get the best of me too many times. I was a bad kid/teen/young adult, but I learned from those missteps. You set the example of how to be a strong black man. I have to do a better job of the same. I love you and miss you. Happy Father’s Day.

A post shared by Vaughn McClure (@mcclurevaughn) on

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Jemele Hill still feels some kind of way about losing her highly visible job at ESPN.

On Wednesday, she joined former First Take host Cari Champion in bashing former First Take analyst Skip Bayless.

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Vice TV

The two women were promoting their new TV show, Cari and Jemele: Stick to Sports, on Vice TV. But, judging from Hill's past, it's doubtful she will stick to sports.

Hill, 44, wrote a column for ESPN2 and previously co-host His & Hers with Michael Smith.

She also made regular appearances on SportsCenter, ESPN First Take, Outside the Lines and The Sports Reporters.

But Hill couldn't keep her personal beliefs separate from her profession, which caused problems with the higher ups at ESPN.

During the 2008 NBA Playoffs, Hill was suspended after referencing Adolf Hitler in an article.

But she really irked her superiors on September 11, 2017 when she wrote a series of tweets referring to President Donald Trump as a "white supremacist."

ESPN issued a statement about Hill's comments, saying they "do not represent the position of ESPN. We have addressed this with Jemele and she recognizes her actions were inappropriate."

Hill apologized after realizing her value as a Black female sportscaster was rapidly shrinking.

"My regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light," she said.

A month later, ESPN suspended Hill for two weeks for a "second violation of our social media guidelines".

In January 2018, she was demoted to a writer's position at The Undefeated, ESPN’s website.

In October 2018, The Atlantic announced Hill was joining the magazine as a staff writer.

Hill's dramatic fall from grace was complete.
 

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Two prominent Black sports reporters lost their jobs at major sports networks this week. ESPN sports reporter Josina Anderson parted ways with the sports channel after nearly 10 years, and Jason Whitlock, 53, was shown the door at Fox Sports.

According to reports, Anderson's contract expired with ESPN and it was not renewed. The same goes for Jason Whitlock whose contract expired at Fox Sports.

Anderson, 41, is very active on Twitter.com but she did not acknowledge the news of her departure.

The NY Post reports the network's decision not to renew Anderson's contract was not Covid-19 related.

Whitlock, a controversial and outspoken host, was often criticized for his views about sports personalities such as LeBron James. And Anderson once reported that former NFL player Michael Sam's teammates refused to shower with him because he was in a same-sex relationship.

Whitlock, who hosted "Speak for Yourself" with Marcellus Wiley, slammed James for speaking out about the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while running through a majority white neighborhood in south Georgia earlier this year.

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ESPN's sports reporter Doris Burke has tested positive for the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Burke, 54, covers many of ESPN's live basketball broadcasts including the NBA and WNBA playoffs. She has been with the network since 1991.

While chatting on Adrian Wojnarowski's podcast, Burke revealed she was tested because she has struggled with health problems recently.

Burke warned people to take the virus seriously and to comply with social distancing recommendations.

Burke is the highest profile NBA sports personality to be diagnosed with the disease. She joins 2 unidentified Laker players, as well as Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz, Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, and 3 unidentified Nets players.

The NBA canceled its season after Gobert, 27, was the first player to test positive. All of the players have since recovered from the virus.

Covid-19 causes no symptoms or mild flu-like symptoms in healthy adults who don't smoke.

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ESPN college football reporter, Edward Aschoff died from double pneumonia, weeks after coming down with the flu. He was 34.

Aschoff died Tuesday on his birthday following a "brief illness," according to ESPN. He was known for his "compassionate" reporting on college football players.

Friends and colleagues of the young reporter said he died from pneumonia after being sickened with the flu.

Aschoff wrote an Instagram post about contracting pneumonia after covering a football game in early December. "Covering #TheGame was a lot of fun. Getting pneumonia ... not so much. But, hey, I'm a hockey player," he wrote.

On Dec. 4, he wrote:

"Having pneumonia is pretty terrible. Like the absolute worst. But it helps having this sweet angel taking care of you even when she’s risking getting this soul-crushing illness herself. All the soup, tea and delicious meals have kept me from crawling into a corner and crying the days away. Love you, babe. Thanks for putting up with my 5 am coughing fits..."

Aschoff and his fiancee, Katy Berteau, planned to marry in April 2020.

On Dec. 5, Aschoff tweeted that he was suffering from pneumonia in multiple lobes of his lungs. He described himself as someone who "never gets sick and has a very good immune system."

"Anyone ever had multifocal (bilateral) pneumonia in their early 30s as [someone] who never gets sick and has a very good immune system? Asking for two friends ... my lungs."

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Aschoff's death shocked his friends and colleagues who shared their grief on social media.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta reports the widespread flu epidemic has killed nearly 2,000 people this flu season.

A new, unusual strain of the flu can make even healthy people vulnerable to common bacteria and virus that cause pneumonia.

Socialite Kim Porter, who had three children with hip-hop mogul Sean Combs, 50, died from double pneumonia on Nov. 15, 2018 after suffering with the flu for weeks. She would have turned 49 on Dec. 15.

The CDC estimates there have been at least 3.7 million flu cases this season, 32,000 requiring hospitalization. Over 1,900 people have died, including 19 children.

Doctors urge everyone 6 months and older to get flu shots ahead of the peak flu season, which is January through February in some geographical areas. High-dose flu shots are being marketed to people over 65.

You should call your doctor or healthcare professional as soon as you begin to feel symptoms of the flu and if your symptoms persist for longer than 7 days.

Symptoms include:

  • runny nose
  • cough
  • fever/chills
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • eye pain
  • sore throat
  • low appetite
  • fatigue (weakness)
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    People at high risk for the flu are those with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, HIV, the over 65 population, or people with weak immune systems.

    Adults with a fever of 102 F or higher and children with a fever of 103 F or higher should see a doctor right away.

    A common cold and the flu are caused by different viruses. Learn the difference between a cold and the flu.