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Maria Taylor has worked her final assignment for ESPN, the network announced Wednesday.
ESPN says after much discussion that they could not agree with Taylor on a contract extension.
“So thankful to Jimmy and all of my great teammates and friends at the SEC Network, College GameDay, Women’s and Men’s college basketball, and the NBA Countdown family,” Taylor said in a statement. “[T]he people who believed in me, encouraged me, pushed me, and lifted me up. Words are inadequate to express my boundless appreciation, and I hope to make them proud.”
Sources tell OutKick that Taylor is likely heading to NBC for a role on the network’s Olympic and NFL coverage. Front Office Sports first mentioned NBC as Taylor’s likely next destination.
While race-baiting media writers and disgruntled sports media hosts will try to paint ESPN as racist for not caving to Taylor’s absurd demands, the truth is ESPN offered Taylor $5 million a year last spring, and she declined it. And during the pandemic, at a time when ESPN asked anchors like Kenny Mayne to take a 60% cut, the network offered Taylor around $3 million a year, a 300 percent raise from her current salary.
This divorce is Taylor’s fault. There are no two sides to it.
I was asked in my mailbag earlier this week about the expected aftermath of Taylor’s departure, here was my response:
This is a person who held onto a colleague’s private phone conversation for a year, turned down a $5 million annual offer, and has hired and fired every talent agency that exists. Until she’s out the door, it’s not officially over.
But to your question, the aftermath won’t be positive either way. Taylor burned down the walls at ESPN. I guess that was her only option when the network decided not to pay her $7 million more than she’s worth. (Yet ESPN remains so afraid of being called ‘racist’ that they’d still bring her back, if they could. If you know of a group of guys with fewer balls — please, don’t tell me about them.)
The most likely scenario is that ESPN would feel pressure to replace Taylor with a black female on NBA Countdown. The New York Times already has the headline written if ESPN plans to replace her with a white woman or black man. And before you say that they could replace her with a white guy, just stop. Please. Ain’t no way a white guy will even get a look at that spot.
Promoting talents based on gender and skin color is what some call, well, racist, but that’s still the plan at ESPN. If Taylor goes, ESPN’s decision-making will focus even more on race. If that’s even possible, which I hear it is.
Taylor’s role on College GameDay will be a bit easier for ESPN to fill. The position is minuscule, but it still looks good in a Twitter bio and contract negotiations. ESPN has several names it could quickly throw in Taylor’s place.
As for NBC, good luck.
NBC is willing to clear real estate on Football Night and America and the Olympics for Taylor. Taylor no doubt has the talent to succeed, but the moment she signs, NBC execs are on the clock.
$5 million a year wasn’t enough for Taylor. Jumping the line over several veterans for NBA Countdown wasn’t enough for her. No matter how much NBC gives Taylor, she will feel slighted, and she will use that perceived slight in future contract negotiations.
Prediction: if Taylor ends up at NBC, “sources inside NBC” will become a common phrase. ESPN talents will also see how easily Taylor got away with leaking information that she could then use to her advantage, and they’ll try it too.
Had ESPN caved and paid Taylor what she wanted after her leak-job to the Times, Jimmy Pitaro would have lost even more of his locker room. Taylor is uber-talented, but she’s also a headache. ESPN is better off without the drama. And, for now, Maria Taylor is better off away from ESPN.