LeBron James’ Advisor Exhausted By Me Too, Black Lives Matter
NBA player LeBron James and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles, California.
Chelsea Lauren | FilmMagic | Getty Images
Longtime white advisor to black NBA superstar LeBron James was caught on camera telling a white ESPN reporter, “I’m exhausted. Between myself and Black Lives Matter, too, I have nothing left.” , a report revealed on Sunday.
Direct comments from powerful communications scholar Adam Mendelsohn – which referred to slogans used respectively for movements seeking to reduce sexual violence against women, and killings and police brutality against blacks – came in a call recorded phone call he had last summer with ESPN NBA reporter Rachel. Nichols, The New York Times reported.
Mendelsohn apologized for the specific comments in an email to CNBC after being asked about them on Sunday.
Nichols, who is white, spoke to Mendelsohn in that July 2020 call about black reporter Maria Taylor securing accommodation for pre and post-game finals shows from the NBA of their sports cable television network, a spot Nichols expected his own, the Times reported.
Nichols on this tape suggested that Taylor received this gig to Nichols’ disadvantage because Taylor is black – and because ESPN was under pressure to have more racial diversity in its on-air talent lineup.
In his opening comments on the statements regarding Black Lives Matter and Me Too, Mendelsohn told CNBC: “I made a stupid and negligent comment rooted in privilege and I am sincerely sorry.”
“I shouldn’t have said it or even thought it,” Mendelsohn said in an email.
“I work to support these movements and I know that those affected by these issues are never exhausted or have nothing left. I must continue to verify my privileges and work to be a better ally.”
Nichols was apparently unaware that the conversation was captured by a video camera that transmitted images and sound from his hotel room at a Walt Disney World resort in Florida. The Walt Disney Company is the majority owner of ESPN.
Video from the camera, which she used to appear on network broadcasts, was transmitted to ESPN’s control room in Bristol, Connecticut. A tape of the appeal then circulated within ESPN and was leaked.
Mendelsohn has been an advisor to James for over ten years. Last year, he co-founded James More Than A Vote’s Black Voters Advocacy Group, and is the group’s senior advisor.
The More Than a Vote website notes that the group “was launched amid the Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of the George Floyd and Breonna Taylor murders. Our goal: to energize, educate and protect black voters.”
Taylor joined More Than a Vote last summer and, as a member of the group, has recorded videos supporting the group’s efforts.
Mendelsohn is also a senior advisor to private equity firm TPG, where he previously worked as managing director of global communications. He was previously Deputy Chief of Staff to then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The Times reported that the video of the call is over 20 minutes long, with a “continuous conversation.” The newspaper published only two audio clips online, with a combined duration of 2 minutes and 47 seconds.
Los Angeles Lakers No.3 Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers No.23 LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers No.28 Quinn Cook kneel during the national anthem in VOTE jerseys before the game begins against the Denver Nuggets in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals during the 2020 NBA Playoffs at AdventHealth Arena at the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on September 22, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.
Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images
The Times article said that “many employees were outraged watching the video” because of their perception that Nichols echoed “a common criticism used by white workers in many workplaces to denigrate non-co-workers. whites – that Taylor was offered the hosting job just because of her. race, not because she was the best person for the job. “
And the Times reported that ESPN employees also said Nichols is making Taylor’s job more difficult because Taylor has to deal with Mendelsohn to get professional basketball talks.
Last May, The Times reported, the stars of ESPN’s “NBA Countdown” questioned whether they would refuse to appear there in protest of production changes, which they believed were made to benefit Nichols. .
These changes included making Nichols the primary secondary reporter, which in turn led to three secondary journalists of color getting smaller assignments.
The explosive report comes weeks before Taylor’s contract with ESPN expires.
The New York Post reported last week that Taylor turned down a contract offer last year that would have increased his current annual salary from $ 1 million to almost $ 5 million per year. Taylor would have waited for a lot more money.
The Post also reported that the current ESPN offer to Taylor would be in the range of $ 2-3 million per year. The lower amount reflects a decision by the network to cut wages across the board, according to The Post.
Nichols called Mendelsohn on July 13, 2020 to request an interview with James and fellow Lakers player Anthony Davis, who is another client of James’ agent Rich Paul. Mendelsohn is also an advisor to Paul, who is black.
Nichols also took the time, on the same call, to ask Mendelsohn for advice on how to handle the situation at ESPN, and to be denied the assignment that was given to Taylor.
âI wish Maria Taylor all the success in the world – she covers football, she covers basketball,â Nichols said during the call with Mendelsohn, audio portions of which were posted online by The Times.
“If you need to give her more to do because you feel the pressure from your long-standing record for diversity – which, by the way, I know personally on the female side – go for it. . Find it somewhere else. You’re not going to find it at my house or take my stuff. “
She also noted that the mission of hosting the NBA Finals coverage “is in my written contract,” the newspaper reported.
After Nichols said she was planning to wait for ESPN’s next move, Mendelsohn stopped and then said, “I don’t know. I’m exhausted. Between Me, too and Black Lives Matter, I don’t. have nothing left. “
Nichols then laughed in response, the tape reveals.
Mendelsohn then suggested that Nichols “frame” the situation as ESPN having two women, Nichols and Taylor, against each other.
“About how it’s so much of a white man for them to turn two women against each other to clash on the one place they hang over them,” Mendelsohn said .
“A broader conversation about all the spots that should be explored.”
Nichols then said on the tape, “There’s not just one seat at the table for a minority of the version we’re trying to please this week.”
Mendelsohn replied, “If you think about it, this is precisely the problem we have been talking about for a long time, namely white men – this is an example of the only black person in the meeting room … You don’t. no chance to have a black woman in a prominent place and tell me, okay, all the work is done. “
âAnd you certainly can’t say, ‘OK, we have a white woman, we have a woman in a critical seat, and now that we’re going to put a black woman in that same seat,â he said.
“The question is, what are the other seats occupied by white men?”
The Times reported that he told the newspaper for his article, âI will share what I believed then and I still believe to be true. Maria [Taylor] deserved and deserved the job, and Rachel [Nichols] it must be respected. “
âMaria deserved it because of her job, and ESPN recognized that like many people and businesses in America, they need to change intentionally,â Mendelsohn said.
âJust because Maria got the job doesn’t mean Rachel shouldn’t be paid what she deserves. Rachel and Maria shouldn’t be forced into a zero-sum game by ESPN, and Rachel should be calling them. . “
The Times reported that Mendelsohn did not respond to follow-up questions on the taped call.
In his statement to CNBC, Mendelsohn said: “I will reiterate what I believe, Rachel advised on the call and told The Times. Maria deserved and deserved the job and Rachel had to respect it. If Rachel was to challenge ESPN , she needed to focus on their overall culture.
ESPN declined to comment on whether an employee has been sanctioned in connection with the case.
The Times reported that the only person known to be punished was a black digital video producer who was suspended for two weeks without pay after telling ESPN’s human resources division that she sent the video to Taylor.
ESPN spokesperson Josh Krulewitz declined to comment on CNBC, but referred to statements he made to The Times for his article.
âA diverse group of executives thoroughly and fairly reviewed all of the facts related to the incident and then dealt with the situation appropriately,â Krulewitz said.
“We are proud of the coverage we continue to produce, and our focus will remain on Maria, Rachel and the rest of the talented team serving NBA fans.”
Krulewitz also told the newspaper that ESPN emphasizes diversity, inclusion and equity, and that the company “has arguably the most diverse range of talented professionals in the sports media industry, including those behind the scenes “.