ESPN benched reporter Rachel Nichols from covering the NBA Finals from the sidelines after a recording surfaced of her making disparaging comments about her colleague, Maria Taylor. 

In leaked audio, Nichols, who is White, reportedly criticized ESPN last year for choosing Taylor, who is Black, to report on the sidelines of the NBA Finals over her. 

“If you need to give her more things to do because you’re feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I myself know personally — like, go for it, just find it somewhere else,” the recording said, according to The New York Times

Nichols apologized on Monday’s edition of “The Jump,” a show she co-hosts on ESPN.  “I also don’t want to let this moment pass without saying how deeply, deeply sorry I am for disappointing those I hurt, particularly Maria Taylor,” she said. 

Rachel Nichols in 2019.

David Becker / Getty

Instead of Nichols, reporter Malika Andrews will give sideline reports. The network said Nichols will still host “The Jump” during the NBA Finals. Taylor, a seven-year veteran of ESPN, is still scheduled to host the “NBA Countdown” for the finals. The series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns begin Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET. 

In a statement, ESPN told CBS News its decision will keep the focus on basketball. 

Reaction to the controversy has been swift — not only targeting Nichols but also ESPN. 

“You don’t see a lot of Black women in the role that Maria is in, she hears that 100 times a day. And so to hear that from a colleague, another woman, I can imagine that that would be very harmful and hurtful for her,” Jemele Hill, a former ESPN host, recently told “CBS This Morning.” 

Meanwhile, Mariah Rose, the daughter of ESPN host and former NBA star Jalen Rose, had this to say: “Maybe instead of crying and calling Maria a diversity token, you could direct that energy to the people who think there can only be one woman on that stage.”