Paul Pierce broke the internet on April 3, 2021, after what transpired on his Instagram live account. Unfortunately, the Boston Celtics legend dragged then-ESPN media personality, Rachel Nichols, into the mess.
Beginning in 2017, Pierce and Nichols were partners on ESPN’s The Jump, developing a strong rapport and expanding the show from 30 minutes to 60 minutes long. However, after a tumultuous mid-2021, both Pierce and Nichols found themselves in hot water.
Paul Pierce went on Instagram live with a room full of strippers and alcohol
Paul Pierce worked for ESPN, which is part of the Disney corporation. The one-time champion likely pissed off his bosses by going on his Instagram live with a room full of half-naked strippers.
One of the best players in Boston Celtics history, Pierce was smoking — either tobacco or weed — and taking shots with the strippers for all of the world to see. In the video, the disheveled former pro also showed the strippers dancing in an NSFW manner.
Since Pierce technically worked for Disney, he was in deep trouble for this video. The 10-time All-Star was an NBA analyst for ESPN. It’s safe to say the higher-ups at Disney didn’t want a video of one of their famous employees hanging out with strippers going viral since Disney products are mostly known for children’s entertainment.
Naturally, Pierce was the talk of Twitter after the video went live. In a surprise turn of events, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols got dragged into the drama.
Rachel Nichols trended on Twitter as the Paul Pierce debacle unfolded
During Pierce’s NSFW Instagram video, someone in the comments asked, “Where Rachel Nichols at?” Nichols’ name promptly began to trend on NBA Twitter along with Paul Pierce. It’s unfortunate because she has nothing to do with this situation and was simply mentioned in the video’s comments.
We can’t imagine Pierce’s family was thrilled with this scandal, but we aren’t here to assume anything. The former NBA later said he didn’t even remember making the video.
ESPN fired Pierce two days later, on April 5, 2021, as Sports Illustrated reports. The network did not ask for any apology from the 2008 NBA Finals MVP nor did he ever issue one. In fact, Pierce expressed that he wasn’t a good fit with ESPN. Reportedly, he hated the travel, felt unappreciated, and didn’t like that he had “to talk about LeBron [James] all the time.”
Pierce joined the 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame class shortly after the debacle — despite his agent’s fear that the scandal would affect his Hall of Fame votes. He also joined the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team in 2021. These days, Pierce promotes DraftKings and Bushmills Irish whiskey on his Instagram instead of strippers. So what happened to his The Jump cohost?
ESPN removes Rachel Nichols from its programming in wake of leaked audio
As for his former The Jump cohost, Rachel Nichols is no longer with ESPN. About three months after Pierce’s firing, leaked audio of Nichols hit the news, as The Hill reports.
In the audio, the anchor criticized the network for promoting NBA Countdown, hosted by Black sportscaster Maria Taylor, because of diversity initiatives. Nichols cited ESPN’s “crappy longtime record on diversity” as the reason Taylor’s program became the NBA Finals pregame and halftime show over hers.
Nichols was replaced by NBA sportscaster Malika Andrews as the sideline reporter for the 2021 NBA Finals, and The Jump was canceled that October. Andrews’ show, NBA Today, replaced The Jump. Nichols eventually won a lawsuit against ESPN because the states where the leaked audio was recorded were two-party consent states. She finalized an undisclosed settlement in January 2022.