When female sports journalists come up, Rachel Nichols is one of the first names that come to mind and that is why she is in the spotlight this week. With the NFL season already kicked off, the two female pioneers have already been done, so who better to spotlight than someone who covers the NFL?
Nichols has had an illustrious career so far, starting in 1995 and spanning until the present. Her most notable job was her time at ESPN. Before that, Nichols worked at the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel and Washington Post. However, her time at ESPN really made her a household name, not only in sports media but in all media. During her time at ESPN, Nichols covered multiple sports and appeared on many different programs including SportsCenter and Monday Night Football along with various coverage during the NBA and NFL seasons. Though Nichols had garnered a decent amount of popularity at ESPN, she left after 9 years to take a job as CNN’s lead sports anchor and she hasn’t looked back since. She is also a reporter for Turner Sports.
When Nichols was hired by CNN, she really started to become more outspoken about sports and really started to break out in the sports world as someone who was conscious of both sports and women’s issues/rights. One of, if not the biggest, report that she has done was about Floyd Mayweather when she questioned him on his past, specifically related to his multiple domestic violence charges.
Nichols is known for asking those tough questions and that’s what makes her so groundbreaking. Unlike most reporters who wouldn’t dare ask him about it, Nichols didn’t back down and she shows the world the side of Floyd Mayweather that everyone tries to ignore. Even Mayweather didn’t really answer her questions directly and he instead tried to make himself seem like the victim of bad publicity. Mayweather has steadily tried to avoid Nichols as much as he could, even banning her from covering his fight due to her tough questioning. As he has called himself “the greatest boxer of all time”, then maybe he shouldn’t be afraid of getting asked some tough questions or maybe actually answer the questions instead of making it look like Nichols was targeting him.
Working at ESPN didn’t really give Nichols a chance to speak up with her opinion as much as working at CNN has. Along with Mayweather, Nichols has had many run-ins with NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell most notably with the Ray Rice incident and then before the Super Bowl in reference to Deflategate. With the Ray Rice incident, Nichols called him out over their investigation and how poorly he handled the case. Her calling out of the commissioner earned her a lot more respect and credibility because she actually had the courage to ask him a very tough question which basically left the commissioner stunned.
Her second incident with Goodell during Super Bowl 49 coverage really showed how important she is to sports media. Nichols’ questioning was about how to avoid there being a conflict of interest when investing Deflategate and Goodell responded much harsher than he has with any other reporter, “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.” That wasn’t the end of Goodell’s statement since he had to try to lighten the mood which failed miserably, “Somebody has to pay, Rachel…So unless you’re volunteering, which I don’t think you are, we will do that.” Once again, Nichols ended up not getting an answer to a simple question that she asked.
Nichols brings a new definition to the term “woman in a man’s world” because she’s not afraid of being there. Her ability to ask difficult questions and demand an answer is what makes her such a trailblazer in a sense. Nichols stands up for women’s issues in sports and doesn’t try to censor herself or her questions. She is one of the few sports journalists who tries to discuss issues instead of ignoring them like most reporters do. Nichols truly represents what it is to be a female sports journalist in the world today.