The last couple of days have been interesting to watch the process by which ESPN has decided not to run a story written by ESPNLosAngeles.com reporter Arash Markasi about a party he attended with LeBron James in Las Vegas.
Within the last hour, ESPN announced it would not run the story after meeting upon meeting about what happened. They decided that Markasi did not identify himself as a reporter at the party, thus, the material was not collected on the up and up.
“ESPN.com will not be posting the story in any form,” said Rob King, Vice President & Editor-in-Chief of ESPN Digital Media, in a statement. “We looked into the situation thoroughly and found that Arash did not properly identify himself as a reporter or clearly state his intentions to write a story. As a result, we are not comfortable with the content, even in an edited version, because of the manner in which the story was reported.
“We’ve been discussing the situation with Arash and he completely understands. To be clear, the decisions to pull the prematurely published story and then not to run it were made completely by ESPN editorial staff without influence from any outside party.”
Markazi then offered this official statement: “I have been in conversations with ESPN.com’s editors and, upon their complete review, understand their decision not to run the story. It is important to note that I stand by the accuracy of the story in its entirety, but should have been clearer in representing my intent to write about the events I observed.”
The story was never posted, either on ESPNLosAngeles.com or on ESPN.com. ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz explained that it was “posted on the server and accessible through searches only during the period it was up. That has also been widely misunderstood.”
So, for those who haven’t seen it, it’s been accessable through various sources (linked here). This draft of Markasi’s story, as described by Will Leitch on his New York magazine blog (linked here), “might not have been the most artful thing we’d ever read, but Markazi — a friendly, competent fellow known for rather cozy relationships with athletes — had almost otherworldly access, a fleeting glimpse behind the curtain of How Superstar Athletes Live. It’s little wonder ESPN spiked it.”
It included this excerpt:
“(Maverick) Carter, LeBron’s’ childhood friend and manager, begins dancing around James like Puff Daddy in a Notorious B.I.G video. A giant red crown-shaped cake is brought over to James while go-go dancers dressed in skimpy red and black outfits raise four lettered placards that spell out, “KING.” Carter grabs a bottle of Grey Goose and pours a quarter of it on the floor and raises it up before passing it off.”
“Just enough pseudo-embarrassing stuff that it was inevitable ESPN would spike the story,” writes Leitch.
Sure, it looks bad. Like ESPN is protecting James, in light of being in kahoots with his “Decision” on their network just a few weeks ago, and so much backlash involved there.
Our take? We’re still processing, and will have more about it in Friday’s media column.