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NBA commissioner Adam Silver has weighed in on the ESPN dustup involving two of the sports giant’s on-air NBA reporters and anchors, Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor. On Tuesday, ESPN said that Nichols would not be handling sideline reporting duties for the NBA Finals (instead the job would go to Malika Andrews) but that she would continue to host her afternoon show The Jump.
“It’s disheartening,” Silver said during a press conference tied to the start of the NBA Finals, adding that the only information he had about the matter was from what he had read in The New York Times and elsewhere. “I think it’s particularly unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other. I know that both Rachel and Maria are terrific at what they do. They work extraordinarily hard.”
Silver went on to say that he was disappointed the dispute hadn’t been handled by ESPN before it spilled into public view over the weekend.
“I think part of the problem is that when people can’t get in a room and talk through these issues, this seemingly has festered now for a full year,” said Silver, noting that the call in question happened last July inside the NBA “bubble” at Walt Disney World. “I would have thought that in the past year, maybe through some incredibly difficult conversations, that ESPN would have found a way to be able to work through it. Obviously not.”
Still, Silver said that the issues brought up in the call and its fallout are familiar to him and to other organizations.
“These issues are not specific to ESPN,” said Silver. “The league is working on its own issues in terms of doing a better job with diversity. Not just in sports, but in companies across America. There’s a reckoning going on.”
“What I’ve learned, from dealing with these issues at the NBA, is that they are incredibly complex, there is no magic bullets here, and they require a really labor-intensive effort,” he said, adding that the league worked on “creating a climate where people are comfortable saying what’s on their mind, where people are given the benefit of the doubt, especially long-term employees that are in good standing, that when they do make comments that people recognize that people make mistakes, that careers shouldn’t be erased by a single comment.”
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