ESPN’s Maria Taylor Reportedly Turned Down $5 Million Contract, Seeks ‘Stephen A. Smith Money’ From Network

Maria Taylor is one of the most gifted young talents in sports media today, and now she wants to be paid like it.

According to a recent report, Taylor rejected a near $5 million contract offer from ESPN last year in hopes of getting even more. The multi-dimensional reporter and television host is seeking a raise that will put her in the Stephen A. Smith territory, which would make her one of the highest-paid employees at the network.

Maria Taylor turned down a $5 million contract offer from ESPN

ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor
ESPN sideline reporter Maria Taylor stands on the sidelines before the Rose Bowl | Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If most people received an offer to report on their favorite sports for $5 million per year, they would accept it in a heartbeat. But Taylor believes she’s worth even more than that.

According to a recent report from Andrew Marchand of the New York Post, ESPN offered Taylor a raise from her current $1 million annual salary to nearly $5 million last year, and she declined.

Taylor believes $5 million is too cheap. The college football sideline reporter and NBA Finals host reportedly wants “Stephen A. Smith money” with her next contract, which would be close to $8 million per year. For reference, the Phoenix Suns, the team Taylor will be covering in the upcoming NBA Finals, have 10 players on their roster making less than $8 million in salary this season.

Taylor’s $5 million offer has already shrunk

Marchand reported Taylor’s $5 million contract offer came during the height of last year’s coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic — a pandemic that forced ESPN to lay off 300 employees and reevaluate the contracts of their remaining workers. Many well-known reporters and on-air personalities were asked to take pay cuts, so ESPN isn’t exactly in the position to be handing out $5 million salaries right now, let alone “Stephen A. Smith money.”

Taylor received her near $5 million offer when ESPN was already in the midst of cutting salaries, so it doesn’t sound as if she’ll be getting a better offer anytime soon. In fact, that original offer has already been taken off the table. Taylor’s new offer is now believed to be in between $2 million and $3 million, according to Marchand.

Could Taylor and ESPN be heading toward a divorce?

Taylor and ESPN seem to be miles apart in negotiations on a new contract, and the deadline to agree on one is coming up soon. Marchand reports Taylor’s current contract is set to expire on or around July 20. The NBA Finals, which will end as late as July 22 if it goes seven games, could be the last time we see Taylor on ESPN.

It’s unlikely that ESPN will bring its offer back up close to $5 million considering nearly all of Taylor’s colleagues are being asked to take pay cuts right now. If Taylor is serious about wanting close to $8 million per year, she’ll probably have to go somewhere else to find it.

Marchand reports both Amazon and NBC have interest in Taylor if she does decide to leave the “Worldwide Leader in Sports.” It looks like we’ll have an expensive sports media bidding war on our hands later this month.

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