Rachel Nichols To Join Skip Bayless, Other Panelists On ‘Undisputed’ To Take On Stephen A. Smith’s ‘First Take’ | Bobby Burack

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Former ESPN host Rachel Nichols will be among the regular panelists to join Skip Bayless on Undisputed when the show returns on August 28.

Nichols will join a rotation of Richard Sherman and rapper Lil Wayne, as first reported by SBJ. Undisputed has been on hiatus since Shannon Sharpe’s final episode in June.

Specifically, Wayne will appear for a segment each week on Fridays. Sherman is nearing a deal to appear on the program for around 75 dates, most of which will occur during the football season.

By the way, whatever happened to the report that no one wanted to work alongside Skip Bayless? What a hack job that report was.

We argued Monday that Undisputed needed to add an NBA voice to its rotation. While a large section of fans do not care about NBA talk, Undisputed is as much a basketball show, a LeBron show, as it is a football show.

Nichols adds that NBA voice to the program. She also will continue to work with Showtime and CNN.

Rachel Nichols is a known name, perhaps in some circles, more so than Bayless. Her career arc is, to use a word, complicated.

To wit:

Nichols returned to ESPN in 2016 to be a face of its NBA division, along with Stephen A. Smith and Adrian Wojnarowski. And as we reported in 2020, she succeeded. Her daily show, The Jump, rated well — far greater than its lead-out in High Noon (one of Bomani Jones’ many, many failures)

Eventually, Nichols signed a contract to anchor the NBA Finals when the network decided to remove then-host Michele Beadle, who lacked both enthusiasm and knowledge toward the sport.

Though Nichols did at times alienate viewers, such as urging the NBA to move its All-Star Game out of North Carolina, she was the right choice for the job. No one could credibly dispute that. She was the premiere NBA host at ESPN, with over two decades of experience.

Then, George Floyd died.

The country responded in a racial reckoning — despite three years later, failing to provide an ounce of proof that race was a factor in why Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s kneck. Nonetheless, brands like ESPN felt pressure to prove they were not racist following the incident.

Moreover, ESPN fell subject to a dubiously-report New York Times hit piece that framed the company as a place that holds people of color back, specifically black women.

The idea that ESPN favored white people in 2020 was an obvious lie. Did the stooge at The Times ever turn on ESPN?

Still, the white bosses at ESPN felt the need to overcompensate for the report and started to demote white people off-air as a result. (Ever wonder why ESPN did not re-sign white guy Bobby Carpenter after being so high on him? Now, you know why.)

Ultimately, Nichols was among the first targets of the post-George Floyd, post-hit piece iteration of ESPN.

Thereby the network asked her to step aside as host of the NBA Finals in favor of Maria Taylor on account of diversity. Nichols, like anyone, didn’t openly opt to hand her job her dream job over to someone else.

Rather, Nichols discussed the matter during a phone call with a friend, a call in which someone back at ESPN privately recorded.

A year later, a rat — maybe an agent, maybe a mom … who knows — obtained the clip, leaked it to the New York Times (who else?), and framed Nichols and ESPN as racist in an effort to meet Maria Taylor’s unreasonable contract demands.

The story gained national attention, even on cable news channels, ultimately leading to the firing of Nichols.

In short, ESPN tried to demote Nichols for being white and fired her for noticing. #DEICausality.

It was gross. It was, by definition, racist. Yet it was Excused Racism — the topic of my recent column –– because she is white and Taylor is black.

Objectively, Nichols was a loss for ESPN. Malika Andrews, who is not even 30, has proven to be an ineffective replacement.

So, Nichols should fit in well in the Undisputed rotation.

Though known for the NBA, she has experience covering other sports. And covered them well. In fact, sources around the industry used to think he would one day replace Tony Kornheiser on PTI. Like Bayless, she has a newspaper background, a staunch contrast to a former player and rapper.

The Undisputed lineup has a chance to be better than the lineup on First Take, with which Bayless and co. will compete head-to-head.

While the cast on First Take includes Chris “Mad Dog” Russo and Marcus Spears, the lineup also features some duds.

Kimberly A. Martin is obnoxious. Ryan Clark has the temperament of a teenage girl. Mina Kimes is a victim, have you not heard? Domonique Foxworth is a puppet for Lamar Jackson. And Chris Canty sucks on television.

Of course, First Take will win the ratings battle while airing on the larger network. But the better quality show might prove to be Undisputed.

Looking ahead, FS1 plans to add other contributors to the list next to Nichols, Sherman, and Lil Wayne. Presumably, Maria Taylor won’t be one of them…

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack is a writer for OutKick where he reports and analyzes the latest topics in media, culture, sports, and politics..

Burack has become a prominent voice in media and has been featured on several shows across OutKick and industry related podcasts and radio stations.

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  1. While Stephen A. can be a loudmouth, he can also – as we saw when he and Clay Travis visited – be thoughtful, kind, and capable of holding his own in a nuanced conversation.

    Skip Bayless is capable of none of that.

    So, no, that will NEVER be the superior show …

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