HoopsHype Arash Markazi rumors
A story on the doings of LeBron James while he and other NBA players were in Las Vegas last weekend will not run on ESPN.com because the reporter did not identify himself as a reporter, an ESPN executive said Thursday. Rob King, vice president and editor in chief of ESPN Digital Media, said in a statement issued by the company that Arash Markazi, a Los Angeles-based columnist, 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," King said in the statement. FanHouse.com
Markazi, in a statement distributed by ESPN, said he understands "their decision not to run the story," while noting that he stands by the accuracy of the piece. Nonetheless, Markazi says he "should have been clearer in representing my intent to write about the events I observed." ESPN sources maintain that the piece was never officially posted on either its main website or on ESPNLosAngeles.com, but was instead posted only on a server and accessible through searches only during the time it was up. Nonetheless, the piece, as seen on blogs, appeared with a time stamp of 2:04 a.m. FanHouse.com
A story that depicts LeBron James' night on the town last weekend at a Las Vegas hotel was pulled from ESPN's Los Angeles website Wednesday. The piece, written by Arash Markazi, a Los Angeles-based columnist, was apparently originally posted at 2:04 a.m. ET. Markazi did not respond to a Twitter request for comment. However, Josh Krulewitz, an ESPN spokesman said the company was looking into the circumstances surrounding the publication of the story, but added, "The story should have never been published. The draft was inadvertently put on the server before going through the usual editorial process. We are in the midst of looking into the matter." FanHouse.com
The events described in the story seem to coincide with practices held by USA Basketball in Las Vegas in preparation for the FIBA World Championship this fall. The story details scenes where James and other NBA players, including New Orleans point guard Chris Paul, Boston forward Glen Davis and Los Angeles Lakers forward Lamar Odom were present. The central part of the piece is centered at Tao, a nightclub and restaurant at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas, with depictions of James, surrounded by Paul, four of James' childhood friends, a man who at one time was in a relationship with James' mother, Gloria, and two employees of Nike, his shoe endorser. Markazi counted a dozen security guards in the area -- five of whom appeared to be assigned to James. At one point in the story, the writer describes a scene in which a pair of apparently nude women are stationed in a bathtub full of water and rose petals, which appears to be a regular occurrence at Tao. FanHouse.com
Don Ohlmeyer, ESPN's ombudsman, was among those who criticized the company for its conduct during the James show, writing: "Beyond James, it's a cautionary tale for ESPN. If the network wants to be considered the true worldwide leader in sports, it must accept the responsibility that comes with it. As the biggest player in the space, ESPN can establish and give credibility to a story. With that clout, of course, comes the obligation to cover each story not just with journalistic integrity but with appropriate weight -- or risk that very same credibility." An ESPN source said the decision to pull the web piece was entirely made by the company's editorial staff, with no input or demand from James or his marketing staff. FanHouse.com
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