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“That's what she does. She's the one that plays that game.” — Michelle Beadle on Rachel Nichols getting fired

A peek into ESPN politics, and how a “longtime adviser of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James” connects to it all.
Former ESPN hosts Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle

Rachel Nichols and Michelle Beadle

Less than a year ago, ESPN pulled Rachel Nichols off NBA Finals sideline reporting after a bombshell report revealed the drama that was going on in Bristol, Connecticut. Michelle Beadle was a bystander while all this was happening, but she did fire off a cryptic tweet obviously referring to the entire situation. 

Nichols vs. Taylor

In case you don't remember the details here's a quick recap of what happened. Before the 2020 FInals, ESPN decided Maria Taylor was going to host the Finals show. Nichols was mad and vented about it on a call. What Nichols didn't know was that someone at ESPN was recording that conversation, and started leaking it around the company. 

“If you need to give her more things to do because you are feeling pressure about your crappy longtime record on diversity — which, by the way, I know personally from the female side of it — like, go for it. Just find it somewhere else. You are not going to find it from me or taking my thing away.”

Rachel Nichols on the leaked tape

The story came out a year later and as a reaction to it, Taylor and the rest of the cast (Jalen Rose, Jay Williams, and Adrian Wojnarowski) threatened to quit the show if Nichols were to be a part of it. As is tradition, details started to leak out and we found out through the year Nichols would report from the sidelines on live shows Taylor was hosting - those turned out to be pre-recorded as Taylor wanted no direct interaction with Nichols. But once the story broke, even that was too much. In the end, ESPN decided to pull Nichols from Finals coverage altogether

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She's the one that plays that game

So while all this was happening, Beadle fired off the "Karma's a bit*h" tweet and most people from the inside knew what it meant. We from the outside could guestimate, but we don't have to anymore. Beadle talked to Ariel Helwani and opened up about her point of view on the entire situation. 

“That's nothing. That person [Nichols], that's what she does. That was nothing, she did stuff to me...she's the one that did all the stuff [to me.] She's the one that plays that game. I don't think either one came out looking great. It wasn't shocking to any of us in that business. When you heard the names and who did what, you were like, "Yeah, that's about right"”

Michelle Beadle, Ariel Helwani

"That game" is the behind-the-scenes network of opinion makers and people with influence you never heard of who can make this happen. The most under the radar part of this story was who Nichols was complaining to - Adam Mendelsohn. In the New York Times story about this fiasco, Mendelsohn is described as “the longtime adviser of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James and James’s agent, Rich Paul.” 

According to the story, Nichols was on the call with Mendelsohn to try and get an interview with LeBron and Anthony Davis. "The game" is the part where she asks Mendelsohn's advice and vents about her frustrations, knowing the influence he has.

This also connects to the "stuff she did to me" part of Beadle's answer. According to her, LeBron tried to get Beadle fired in 2011 because he didn't like her comments on The Decision. As any other person in media, Beadle said it was a bad moment for LeBron, but for some reason, her comments stood out to James and he tried to push ESPN to let her go. (Remember how NBA players always say the one thing you should never do is f**k with other people's money?)

Years later, Rachels Nichols who we know seeks advice and council from “the longtime adviser of the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James” got Michelle Beadle's job leading their NBA show. 

This explains why The Jump never had a segment examining LeBron's China fiasco, using Communist Party talking points saying Daryl Morey “wasn't educated,” never followed up on that mythical hand injury from the 2018 Finals and so much more. 

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