ESPN analyst and host Maria Taylor took time out to meet with Oglethorpe athletes on a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon to discuss ways student-athletes and coaches can influence positive change in their communities. The call was moderated by Oglethorpe Women’s Basketball Coach Alex Richey ’11, a former high school classmate of Taylor’s.
Taylor spoke about the importance of open communication, showing solidarity, and becoming knowledgeable on the subject at hand, especially when using social media as the platform for spreading a message. She also discussed how coaches can put systems in place that focus on community outreach and mentorship among athletes.
The recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor have shined further light on police brutality and racial injustice. The deaths have sparked protests across the country bringing national attention to inequalities primarily affecting the Black community. Taylor recently made headlines after appearing on ESPN’s First Take, a weekday morning sports debate show on trending topics, where she used her own platform to share her point of view as an African American woman and prominent sports media figure.
“My patience left my body when I watched George Floyd take his last breath. So, if that didn’t affect you and make you want to reassess the way you want to address a question that includes racial injustice in our country after you watch that man die in the middle of the street, something’s off,” Taylor said on the show during a discussion about Drew Brees and his apology for his response about NFL player protests during the national anthem.
During her conversation with the Oglethorpe athletes, Taylor explained that her job has been to host, report, and entertain. This initially led to some hesitation to appear on First Take, because the format is an opinion show. Taylor shared some insight into the reaction to her comments on First Take.
“There was a fallout, but what I felt was important in that moment was to hold people accountable and understand that our words mean something.”
Taylor was also asked by students to share what she has seen that makes her optimistic about society moving forward.
“The youth that’s been involved in non-violent protesting has been amazing,” Taylor said. “But, honestly, it’s been people’s willingness to listen.”
“I believe we are on the precipice of something big. We’ve already ignited this flame. I just hope it turns into this huge fire that continues to burn. But, it’s up to you guys to make sure that keeps happening. It starts in your community. It starts with your team. It starts with these conversations. Let’s just start to build up the America we want to live in.”
Maria Taylor was a two-sport athlete at Centennial High School in Alpharetta, Georgia. After high school, Taylor attended the University of Georgia where she played volleyball and women’s basketball and found her passion for sports broadcasting. She’s also a co-founder of the Winning Edge Leadership Academy, a nonprofit that creates opportunities for a new generation of diverse leaders in the sports and entertainment industry.
She has served in a variety of roles for ESPN, including hosting College Game Day and NBA Countdown.