Podcaster and Meadowlark Media contributor Amin Elhassan had plenty to say about one of his former ESPN colleagues Tuesday, eviscerating Adrian Wojnarowski during his appearance on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz. Wojnarowski, who has served as ESPN’s lead NBA reporter since 2017, was quoted as calling Rachel Nichols (who was yanked from her sideline reporting duties at the NBA Finals after alluding Maria Taylor got her NBA Countdown hosting gig over pressure from network higher-ups to make broadcasts more “diverse”) a “bad teammate” in a bombshell New York Times story that hit newsstands earlier this week. Elhassan, who left ESPN to join Le Batard on his proverbial “pirate ship” back in January, found that sentiment to be especially rich coming from Wojnarowski.
“There’s another element to this, by the way, which is the Game of Thrones of ESPN, particularly on the NBA side, the power struggle,” said Elhassan, characterizing the cutthroat culture behind the scenes in Bristol. “[Woj] is going to call someone a bad teammate? For real? Do we want to talk about the black careers that he put a foot on, because he was threatened? Do you want to talk about the news-breakers of diverse background who have rapports with players Adrian doesn’t have that he saw as threatening because his sources are all front-office people and assistant coaches trying to move up, and maybe a video coordinator who’s trying to get a better job somewhere else?”
Elhassan didn’t stop there, doubling down on his criticism of Woj. “He can’t talk to LeBron. He can’t talk to Chris Paul or Damian Lillard or some of these other guys. He doesn’t have that rapport with them. So what he does is he steps on them. He steps on a lot of people over there,” said Elhassan of Wojnarowski’s Machiavellian tactics. “When you see a byline that says, ‘as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski and fill in the blank,’ that’s the ol’ ‘put my name on it and put it out there’ [trick].”
Clearly Elhassan, who worked in the Suns’ front office prior to joining ESPN, has an axe to grind with Woj, though he’s been supportive of Nichols in the wake of her recent controversy, describing her as an “ally” throughout his own ascent in sports media. Elhassan also lamented ESPN’s prevailing “There Can Only Be One” mentality, often pitting women in high-profile positions against each other.
“When it came to the NBA, she was ruthless. That was the perception,” said Jemele Hill (also an ESPN alum), acknowledging Nichols’ famous competitive streak. “That doesn’t make her unique. I’m sure Adam Schefter is the same way. That’s the nature of the job.”
Nichols, who issued an apology on Monday, will continue to host The Jump, part of ESPN’s afternoon lineup, while Malika Andrews works the sidelines at the NBA Finals, which begin Tuesday night in Phoenix.