As first reported on the Twitter feed of Vanity Fair’s Jim Miller, Rachel Nichols is returning to ESPN. SI.com later confirmed the story that Nichols is Bristol-bound once again to serve as an anchor and reporter. She is expected to embark on her new role early next year. Nichols previously spent a 10-year stint with the worldwide leader from 2004-2013, before departing for Time Warner, where she spent the past 3 years working for CNN, TBS, and TNT.
During Nichols’ original run with ESPN, she was a major contributor for their flagship program, SportsCenter, as well as Sunday NFL Countdown, NBA Countdown, and E:60. She is expected to return to both SportsCenter and E:60 as well as host her own program.
Nichols did, however, flourish with the network as a sideline reporter for TBS’ coverage of Major League Baseball, the NBA on TNT, and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for both. She also further established herself as CNN’s lead reporter for both the Olympics and the Super Bowl. It was at this past Super Bowl that Nichols drew the ire of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for asking him whether there was a conflict of interest regarding the league’s investigation into the New England Patriots and “Deflategate” while the team was readying for the big game against the Seattle Seahawks. It invoked this response from the commish and vaulted her into one of the 100 most influential people in the NFL, according to notable NFL journalist Peter King.
“Well, Rachel, I don’t agree with you in a lot of the assumptions you make in your question. I think we have had people who have had uncompromising integrity. I think we have done an excellent job of bringing outside consultants in. Somebody has to pay, Rachel. So unless you’re volunteering, which I don’t think you are, we will do that.”
Nichols did not back down, however, telling King the following at the time.
“The NFL has become our national sport. That’s not an accident. The league has worked very hard over the years to weave itself into the fabric of American life. But when you take on that position, that public trust, we’re all going to hold you to a higher standard. That’s what’s behind the questions I’ve been asking, and why I think those questions have resonated with so many football fans.”
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