In 2014, Rachel Nichols was the anointed badass of sports activities media.
After the horrifying video surfaced of Ravens large receiver Ray Rice brutally punching his then-girlfriend inside an Atlantic Metropolis elevator, the NFL was pressured to publicly reckon with the league’s home violence challenge.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, nevertheless, was pressured to reckon with Nichols.
Throughout a press convention in New York Metropolis, the then-CNN reporter held his ft to the fireplace, difficult him on the league’s steadiness of energy and the hiring of Robert Mueller to conduct an investigation resulting from his ties to the league. Extra importantly, she questioned his declare that the NFL tried to acquire the elevator video, which town’s prosecutors basically denied had been formally requested.
“Nothing is private between Roger Goodell and me,” she later advised the Wrap. “I really suppose he’s good and attention-grabbing, however there are questions it’s a must to ask. The NFL has to know that followers wish to know the solutions to issues like how they deal with the home abuse challenge.”
Instantly, Nichols trended on Twitter. Sports activities media weblog Terrible Saying stated she was the “star” of the press convention. Sports activities Illustrated referred to as her “the nation’s most impactful and outstanding feminine sports activities journalist.” And somebody even edited her Wikipedia web page, altering her job title to “proprietor of Roger Goodell.”
In 2016, she was lured again to ESPN, the place she remained a outstanding face internet hosting “The Leap” and dealing with quite a few different NBA assignments.
However then the 47-year-old touched a 3rd rail in a very fraught time in our tradition: race.
Final week, ESPN unceremoniously cancelled her present and dropped her from any NBA protection, basically reducing ties with the once-lionized reporter.
“Bought to create a complete present and spend 5 years hanging out with a few of my favourite individuals speaking about one my favourite issues. An everlasting thanks to our superb producers & crew – The Leap was by no means constructed to final without end however it positive was enjoyable. Extra to come back…” she wrote on Twitter.
The offense that led to her demise and a firestorm inside ESPN? Nichols was on a name complaining to LeBron James’ advisor Adam Mendelsohn that ESPN took her contractual place internet hosting the NBA Finals and gave it to Maria Taylor, who’s black, to make up for his or her “crappy longtime report” on variety.
The dialog came about inside her Disney World resort room as she was masking the 2020 NBA playoffs through the pandemic bubble. It was caught on the community’s digital camera, which was transmitted to their Connecticut places of work and recorded on a cellphone by an worker, who confirmed it to colleagues, in response to the New York Occasions.
It was additionally arguably illegally recorded.
On condition that each Connecticut and Florida are two-party consent states, that means each individuals must conform to being recorded, consultants have stated Nichols has a powerful authorized case towards ESPN.
“For my part, ESPN doesn’t have a leg to face on,” Matt Netti, an lawyer within the workplace of the overall counsel at Northeastern College and contributor to sports activities authorized website Conduct Detrimental, advised The Put up. “I ought to hope for their very own sake that they reached a settlement together with her and paid her some huge cash.”
He referred to as the taping a violation of the two-party consent legal guidelines, including, “Even when it was a one-party state, it appeared like neither Nichols nor Mendelsohn knew they have been being recorded. Greater than seemingly this video was captured illegally and distributed.”
Netti stated she might have a case with violation of privateness. “She had a proper to really feel safe and that this dialog was non-public,” he stated. ESPN can be responsible of a “normal breach of contract,” he added, since they took her off her task within the first place.
ESPN declined to remark and a rep for Nichols didn’t return a name from The Put up.
Although the video didn’t floor till a yr later, the general public fallout and her subsequent fall from grace was fairly swift.
After the story broke, Nichols apologized to Taylor, who was within the midst of contract negotiations and landed at NBC Sports activities in late July. However the harm was executed. Many noticed her remarks as racially insensitive.
Throughout the cutthroat business, Nichols was recognized for her sharp elbows and ultra-competitive bent towards touchdown high-profile interviews. Her strategy rubbed some co-workers the incorrect approach, with ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski calling Nichols a “unhealthy teammate.” However it was that very same ambition and confidence that propelled Nichols to the highest of a male-dominated discipline.
As she advised “The espnW,” which fawningly interviewed her in 2016 about her new function on the community, “There’s some extent the place it’s a must to determine what’s extra necessary to me. Is it extra necessary to me what I consider what I’m doing or what the blokes round me consider what I’m doing? And while you determine that it’s necessary what you suppose, that’s initially very liberating and it’s additionally a north star… I belief my instincts.”
It appears she’s at all times had an inside profession compass. Nichols was raised in Potomac, Maryland, the place her father was an lawyer and her mom labored for the Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being. She performed soccer as a child and commenced honing her ardour for journalism in her tween years.
“I knew fairly early. I used to be on the varsity paper again in junior excessive and by no means actually stopped,” she advised Midwest Sports activities Followers.
“From the start, sports activities appeared like the most effective gig to me. As a child, the concept that individuals bought paid to comply with sports activities for a dwelling appeared like getting paid to go to recess. Truly, as an grownup, I nonetheless suppose that generally.”
She graduated from Northwestern College’s Medill College of Journalism in 1995, touchdown her first sports activities writing gig on the Fort Lauderdale Solar Sentinel. She went on to cowl the Capitals on the Washington Put up and commenced showing on native newscasts and caught the attention of ESPN fits.
In 2004, she was employed by the “worldwide chief in sports activities,” turning into a fixture on its NFL and NBA protection. ln 2013, she jumped ship to CNN to host “Unguarded,” the place she interviewed athletes resembling Derek Jeter, LeBron James and Floyd Mayweather, whom she pressed on his home violence historical past.
Whereas her profession was constructed on uncovering the human aspect of athletes, the married mom is rather more discreet about her non-public life, not often giving any perception into her circle of relatives.
In 2001, she married music government Max Nichols, the son of the late Mike Nichols who directed “The Graduate.” He’s additionally the stepson of reports legend Diane Sawyer. The pair met as youngsters at a summer season camp in Maine and reconnected as adults. They’ve 10-year-old twin daughters.
It’s unclear the place she goes from right here. However she does have one very highly effective ally in her nook: NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who appeared to acknowledge that her achievements are intensive, trailblazing and as soon as set an business normal.
“Careers shouldn’t be erased by a single remark,” he stated within the aftermath of the tape leak, including, “We ought to be judging individuals by the bigger context of their physique of labor and who they’re.”