1. And then there was none.
A couple of months ago, ESPN had Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor to anchor its NBA studio shows. Now, neither is part of ESPN’s coverage.
Maria Taylor bolted Bristol for NBC right after the NBA Finals and Wednesday, ESPN announced that it had canceled Nichols’s daily afternoon show The Jump and that Nichols would no longer be part of its NBA coverage.
Throughout this saga, it’s been hard to imagine how ESPN could’ve handled things any more poorly. And yesterday was the icing on the cake.
A reminder: ESPN knew a year ago about the comments Nichols made in her hotel room on a private phone call that were secretly recorded and then distributed by another ESPN employee.
It did nothing in terms of discipline, at least publicly.
In July, The New York Times revealed Nichols’s comments just a couple of weeks before Taylor’s contract with ESPN was set to expire:
“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.
“I just want them to go somewhere else—it’s in my contract, by the way; this job is in my contract in writing.”
That last tidbit seems to be forgotten in this entire controversy. It was in Nichols’s contract that she hosts NBA Countdown during the Finals. ESPN, though, gave the assignment to Taylor. So this entire thing was ignited by ESPN.
After Nichols’s private conversation became public, ESPN then pulled Nichols from the NBA Finals. And now, a month later, they’ve pulled her from all NBA coverage.
You can debate all day long whether Nichols should’ve lost her job over this. I don’t believe she should have.
But what can’t be debated is how poorly ESPN handled all this. The bottom line is that if this story did not end up in The New York Times, Nichols would’ve worked the NBA Finals and would still be hosting The Jump.
All ESPN is doing now is trying to save face, but, instead, it’s coming out of this mess looking disingenuous, confused, erratic and unfair.
ESPN had multiple chances to handle this properly. Again, I don’t believe Nichols should lose her job, but obviously ESPN did. So if the end result was going to be cutting ties with Nichols, ESPN could’ve done it last year when it found out about the secretly recorded comments. They could’ve done it when the Times story came out. They could’ve done it the day after the NBA Finals.
Instead, ESPN dragged this out and humiliated Nichols along the way.
2. A brand-new episode of the SI Media Podcast dropped this morning and it features two interviews.
First up is Nate Burleson, who is leaving the NFL Network's Good Morning Football to cohost CBS This Morning. Burleson discusses what went into his decision to make the career change, why the move wasn't an automatic "yes" and why the job at CBS News appealed to him. The former NFL wide receiver also talks about the reaction to the NFL playoff game he called on Nickelodeon last year, his favorite Good Morning Football memory, the hardest job he's ever and gives us a great Jay-Z impersonation.
Following Burleson, writer, author and reporter James Andrew Miller joins the podcast. Miller shares his insights into ESPN's alternate Monday Night Football telecast with Peyton and Eli Manning, Stephen A. Smith reportedly getting Max Kellerman removed from First Take, the Sopranos prequel movie, the upcoming season of Curb Your Enthusiasm and much more.
The podcast wraps up with the weekly "Traina Thoughts" segment. This week, Jimmy and Sal Licata from WFAN and SNY discuss whether you can do a sports debate show with someone you don't like, Hard Knocks, SummerSlam, CM Punk's return to wrestling and more.
3. Bills wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie tried to get some sympathy for the NFL's fining him nearly $15,000 for not wearing a mask around the team's training facility by posting this letter that the league sent him. All anyone could focus on, however, is that McKenzie gave out his email address to the world.
4. The Orioles snapped their 19-game losing streak last night with a 10–6 win over the Angels and the team's social media account reacted in great fashion.
5. Knicks forward Evan Fournier is not a fan of his NBA 2K22 depiction and quite frankly, who can blame him?
6. CM Punk set the wrestling world on fire with his return last week. Last night, on AEW Dynamite, Punk teased another potential return that would thrill wrestling fans.
7. RANDOM VIDEO OF THE DAY: Wanna feel old? Today is Macaulay Culkin's 41st birthday. Here's his first interview promoting Home Alone on Live with Regis and Kathie Lee.
Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on Apple, Spotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.