Shortly before tip off of the first game of the 2021 NBA Finals, league commissioner addressed the turmoil at one of the league’s premiere TV partners, ESPN, surrounding hosts Rachel Nichols and Maria Taylor.
Asked by reporters about the controversy over Nichols leaked comments regarding ESPN and Taylor, Silver called the situation “disheartening.”
“I think it’s particularly unfortunate that two women in the industry are pitted against each other,” he continued. “I know that both Rachel and Maria are terrific at what they do. They work extraordinarily hard.”
The usually-politic Silver also added a more pointed remark seemingly directed at the reaction to Nichols’ comments about Taylor saying that “we should be judging people by the larger context of their body of work and who they are and what we know about them.”
The popular Silver saw the league through a pandemic, a playoff bubble and, in the middle of that, took action on the demands of players during protests over the death of George Floyd last summer.
“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.”
In that context, he wondered why ESPN had not found a way to address the conflict in the year since Nichols’ recording was leaked. He also offered a suggestion from his own conflict resolution playbook.
“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. “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.”
Such situations, he said, “require a very labor-intensive effort…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.”
Watch Silver’s entire press conference below.
— NBA (@NBA) July 7, 2021