Journalist Rachel Nichols is known for not tolerating nonsense. In September 2014 alone, she earned applause from across the industry for skewering boxer Floyd Mayweather over his domestic violence record and slamming NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his handling of the the Ray Rice circus.
And so when ESPN writer Brian Windhorst appeared on her show “The Jump” on Friday and directed a loaded comment her way, Nichols refused to let him off the hook.
It started when Windhorst was asked whether he was “hurt” that LeBron James currently follows Nichols and not him on Twitter.
“I don’t care,” Windhorst responded. “He’s sliding into Rachel’s DMs.”
Nichols immediately reacted to the words, shaking her head and, at one point, turning to the camera and lifting her hands into the air -- as if to say, is he kidding me?
(Sliding into DMs, an explainer: When someone, typically a man, privately and suggestively messages someone else, typically a woman, whom they're interested in.)
“That is not true and not something you should say on television,” she said, facing Windhorst. “Will you take that back, please?”
Windhorst, surely not intending to be hurtful, acceded, taking back the retort.
Now, why was the comment offensive? Because it suggests that Nichols gained her status as one of the industry’s biggest names not through important, quality work, but through promiscuity or simply based on her physical appearance. And because it never, ever would’ve been said if Rachel Nichols had been, say, Ray Nichols.
But Nichols, true to form, got in the last dig.
“This [happened] because Brian doesn’t exactly know what that phrase means. Right? Am I correct in that?”
“I guess I don’t,” he said. "Based on your reaction, I would say that I don't."
A word to the wise: Don’t challenge Nichols to a one-on-one gender-based matchup with the camera rolling and the mic hot. She’ll linguistically lap you every time.