The Untold Truth Of Rachel Nichols

Rachel Nichols has been a staple in sports journalism, interviewing up-and-comers and superstars alike with the same level of grace, candor, and chutzpah. Now a giant in the field, Nichols has kept everyone in the world of athletics in the loop about every dribble, layup, and turnover that goes down on the court. And when she's not on television, she's lighting it up on Twitter, where she dissects plays, responds to fans, posts photos with super famous athletes, and offers her two cents on issues people are buzzing about.


But Nichols hasn't always been on the air, believe it or not. Plus there are some things about her that might surprise you, such as the places she's been, who she stands up for, and how she came to be the powerhouse that she is today. So what else is there to know about America's basketball queen? Read on to learn about the untold truth of Rachel Nichols, journalist extraordinaire. 

Journalism was her calling

When Nichols was growing up, she didn't harbor visions of being a lawyer or an engineer or even an actress. Rather, she knew when she was fairly young that journalism was her calling, lured by the siren song of the proverbial clicking typewriter. "I knew pretty early. I was on the school paper back in junior high and never really stopped," she explained in an interview with Midwest Sports Fans. That shows just how suited she was for her industry — it was practically her destiny!


Additionally, the athletic component was a factor as well, as she played a variety of sports as a young person, mainly soccer. "From the beginning, sports seemed like the best gig to me," she continued. "As a kid, the idea that people got paid to follow sports for a living seemed like getting paid to go to recess. Actually, as an adult, I still think that sometimes." Looks like she truly found the secret to making work fun.

Journalism school in Chicago

Given that the field of journalism was calling to Nichols at an early age, it makes perfect sense that she decided to go to college for, well, journalism. To that end, she selected the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University in Chicago, where she received her bachelor's degree in 1995. That takes some serious academic chops.


The school also invited Nichols to speak at its commencement ceremony in 2018, where she addressed graduate students in an afternoon address. "To call my time at Northwestern 'formative' would be a colossal understatement — it shaped so much of the journalist, and the person, I've turned out to be," she reflected in an article published by Northwestern University. "I'm so thrilled to have the chance to come back and be even a small part of that same experience for this year's graduating class." What an honor, indeed.

Nichols shared an excerpt of the speech on her Instagram page — sounds like it was a fun and engaging speech!

She got her start in print journalism

Upon graduation in 1995, Rachel Nichols headed from chilly Chicago down to sunny Florida to work for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, according to her bio on ESPN. She stayed there for a year, before then moving to Washington D.C. to be a reporter for the Washington Post — so much for the sun and the sea! 


Given that it was the late 1990s, print journalism was still a solid industry, so working for a newspaper was a logical choice for Nichols to make. But television was already reaching its tendrils out to her, beckoning her into the field. "When I was in D.C. and my job was to cover the Washington Capitals, the hockey writer would go on the pre-game show on the local cable network every pre-game to do a segment," she recalled in an interview with Marie Claire. "So even as a newspaper reporter I was also becoming a TV reporter, kind of on the side." Thus began the inevitable evolution of Nichols into a TV sports journalist.

Taking Roger Goodell to task

The NFL is no stranger to scandals, whether it's questionable inflation practices, dog-fighting rings, or concussions and brain damage. But in 2014, the league was plagued with an especially high-profile scandal, in particular that of Ray Rice. The football player allegedly assaulted his then-fiancée and his actions were caught on video, according to TMZ, and the NFL not only claimed the organization hadn't seen the video, but handed down a paltry two-game suspension as punishment. Understandably, people were outraged.


At that time, Nichols was working as a sports journalist on CNN, and, at a now infamous press conference, she interrogated Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL. "The public did not feel the NFL understood that some of the early answers were not good enough," she explained in an interview with Sports Illustrated. "Hard questions to Roger Goodell in some ways let people feel like they were having an opportunity to ask the things they wanted to ask."

Nichol's reporting appeared to expose the gaffes of the NFL and had a real impact. Don't mess with Nichols!

Crusading against domestic violence

Ray Rice isn't the only person with domestic violence issues that Rachel Nichols has reported on. She also interviewed famous boxer Floyd Mayweather, who's served time for domestic violence, according to ESPN. Her interview with Mayweather came on the heels of the incident with Rice and the NFL, which ESPN reported that Mayweather had commented on. "I think there's a lot worse things that go on in other people's households, also," he said. "It's just not caught on video, if that's safe to say. You know I wish Ray Rice nothing but the best. He's probably going through a lot right now because football is his love." He later apologized for the remarks.


This didn't escape the attention of Nichols, who took him to task on CNN. "You are someone with a history of domestic violence yourself. You've even been to jail for it. Why should fans root for you with this kind of history?" she asked.

Mayweather denied any wrongdoing in the interview, saying that the allegations against him are unsubstantiated. "The denial there with Mayweather is truly amazing, right?" she said after the interview segment ended. "It gives an interesting window into the way an abuser can walk around, maintaining over and over again that nothing is wrong despite hard evidence to the contrary." Louder again for the people in the back! 

Her on-air style is savage

Taking on powerhouses like Roger Goodell and Floyd Mayweather is just a Tuesday afternoon for Rachel Nichols, as the journalist has been savage before and surely she will be savage again. Take, for example, her monologue on ESPN about the institutional failures of baseball team the Dallas Mavericks, their culture of sexual harassment, and their tolerance of violence against women. Over six minutes, she describes the climate that women who worked there had to deal with, including being touched inappropriately and being told, "You're going to get gang-banged, aren't you?" — then hushed and silenced by HR. Gross. They also kept someone on staff who pleaded guilty to domestic violence.


At the end of the monologue, Nichols called for the NBA to do better. "This game is too good, this sport is too good, this league is too good to let something this bad continue," she implored.

How she really feels about other women in her field

Sports journalism is not a field known for employing a lot of women, something that's definitely not lost on Nichols. To that end, she has made it a point to congratulate other women in the field when they receive accolades. "There's definitely a 'we're all in this together' feeling about it, at least for me," she shared in an interview with CNN. "People love the word 'catfight;' they love to pit women against each other." It's so nice to see women supporting women!


That camaraderie and lack of pettiness is something that Nichols truly appreciates in her profession, too. "One of the things I love about women in sports broadcasting is that you actually don't see that," she continued. "You really see incredible support. I know it doesn't make for as sexy a story that that's the case, but it actually is the case." Hey, there's nothing unsexy about sisterhood, boo!

Her most embarrassing television moment

For as composed and as sharp as Nichols is on television, even she has had embarrassing moments. One windy winter day she spent covering an NFL game for Sportscenter in Buffalo stands out for her in particular. "I think gusts were like 65 to 70 miles per hour," she recalled in an interview with Marie Claire. "It was freezing and I was standing on a riser and my footing was not great, and a gust of wind came while I was giving my report and I just flew off the box." Oh no!


It wasn't something she was able to recover from, either, as she was really knocked over by nature. "'Fall' isn't even the right word. I was swept aside by the wind," she continued. "I was literally moved across the screen. We got disconnected and I'm sure the anchor was like, 'Well, we've lost Rachel.'" That legit sounds pretty hilarious, given that Nichols was okay. Unfortunately the footage doesn't exist on YouTube, so we'll never get to see this little comedic vignette.

She met her husband at summer camp

Of course, Rachel Nichols has a personal life in addition to her professional life. In May of 2001, she married film director Max Nichols, the son of novelist Annabel Davis-Goff and film director Mike Nichols, who directed movies such as The Graduate and Primary Colors, according to The New York Times. Additionally, her husband's stepmother is none other than the famous journalist Diane Sawyer. Talk about a star-studded family!


So how is it that such a #relationshipgoals power couple met? It wasn't at a sporting event, surprisingly, or on a blind date set up by friends. Rather, they met at summer camp in Maine together, according to TV Newser. That's as wholesome as it gets, fam. The two did lose touch after their teenage years, but they later reconnected when he reached out to her — and obviously sparks flew. And, of course, the rest is history. 

Juggling work with motherhood

Nichols and her husband have twin girls together, and raising them is something that obviously requires a lot of time and effort from her. But due to the gender ratio in her field, however, she's not often able to connect with other working mothers for support. "I'm not around as many working moms as women in other fields, but when I do find other women to connect with, it's an amazing comfort," she revealed in an interview with Working Mother magazine.


That doesn't mean that the people she works with and around aren't empathetic, though. "I've also learned that the working dads I'm around — and I'm around a lot of them — really get it, too, in ways I didn't expect," she continued. "More than half the athletes I cover have kids." So at least she's not alone.

In fact, the athletes she works with have been a huge help to her in the past. "When I first had my twins, I probably got more advice on work life balance from them than from anyone else," she added. We wonder what kind of parenting advice LeBron James gives!

She was at that notorious Mike Tyson fight

It's arguable that Mike Tyson is one of the most famous — and one of the most infamous — boxers of all time. In his heyday, he was an undisputed champion, but he also managed to get himself into all kinds of legal trouble, as noted by The New York Times


Nichols had a chance to see the man in action at perhaps the most notorious fight of his entire career. "I was at the Tyson-Holyfield fight where Tyson bit off Holyfield's ear, and the thing is ... it was a million-watt night even before the ear thing happened," she shared in an interview with Midwest Sports Fans. Can you imagine the energy that was in that room?

But Nichols feels that events of that caliber aren't what they used to be anymore. "I do think the 'it' factor of those fights is gone now, though," she continued. "And a lot of times even the Super Bowl can be a dud once you get to the game itself." Who can argue with that, especially after the 2019 Super Bowl?

For her, sportscasting is a form of storytelling

When Rachel Nichols was little, she loved sports, and she decided to go into sports journalism as a career because she thought it would be fun. Makes perfect sense, right? But as she's matured in her career as a sportscaster, she's also matured in the way she thinks about sports in general. "When I got older and thought about it more critically, I realized that what appealed to me was that when you go to a sporting event there's this whole story that happens in front of you," she explained in an interview with Marie Claire. "But you don't know what's going to happen." Of course — things could go in any direction!


That's something that Nichols really loves about sports, as there can be drama and upsets at every turn, changing the trajectory of the game. "If your job is to tell stories, it's so much more fun to do it if it's not all predetermined," she continued. "And it seemed so much better than working in an office." Surely working court-side at an NBA game is better than pushing paper!

Her favorite interview

In Rachel Nichol's long and successful career, she's had to opportunity to sit down with a lot of incredible athletes. Take one look at her Instagram page, and you'll see her rubbing shoulders with everyone from Shaq to Allen Iverson to Scottie Pippen. To say she's lucky would be an understatement.


So of all of the amazing ballers she's had the pleasure of working with, who stands out as the most memorable? "I first did a project with LeBron James when he was in high school. To be able to talk to somebody at the age of 17 and now at the age of 32 — to be able to have these hour-long sit-down check-ins with another human being would be pretty cool even if he was just the guy at the hardware store on the corner," she shared in an interview with Marie Claire. "But it's not the guy from the hardware store, it's one of the greatest athletes ever." We totally get why she made that choice. He IS LeBron, after all!

She urges sports fans to do this

If anyone's had front row seats to some of the most exciting sporting events — from the NBA finals to the Super Bowl — it's Rachel Nichols. Her career has certainly afforded her access to some of the best athletic competitions out there. So, what does she recommend that every sports fan put on their bucket list? "There was a time when I would have said a big-time heavyweight prizefight in Vegas — and I'm not even particularly a boxing fan," she revealed in an interview with Midwest Sports Fans. Certainly that would be a high-stakes event with tons of drama.


But Nichols thinks there's a better way to truly experience the excitement of the sports world. "I'd say if you're making a list, make it as much about the places as the event," she continued. "See Wimbledon. See Wrigley. See Madison Square Garden and Augusta and yes, the new Cowboys Stadium, if only to watch that scoreboard." That's one way to capture the energy!