SBD/Issue 221/Sports Media

ESPN Will Not Suspend Arash Markazi For LeBron In Vegas Story

ESPN Faulted Markazi For
Not Disclosing His Intent

ESPN has elected not to suspend writer Arash Markazi for his mistakenly published story about Heat F LeBron James, according to a person familiar with the situation. ESPN last week said it pulled Markazi’s story detailing a weekend with James in Las Vegas because the reporter failed to identify himself and his motives properly. While the network noted it was not comfortable with the “manner in which the story was reported,” Markazi received no formal suspension, said the source, who requested anonymity. As of presstime, the L.A.-based columnist has not written an article or blog entry since the incident occurred last Wednesday, nor has he posted anything on his Twitter account, which he normally updates frequently. ESPN declined comment on the matter (Brian Helfrich, THE DAILY). In Boston, Charles Pierce wrote, "If Arash Markazi really did just sort of worm his way in without identifying himself, then the ethics of his work are problematic. I just don't think that's what happened." Pierce wrote the public explanation for pulling Markazi's story is not "anything more than ESPN's trying to smooth over its well-cultivated relationship with James by taking the only avenue available to it -- to wit, throwing its own reporting, and its own reporter, out the window." Pierce: "This should give pause to all the actual journalists working at the WWL" (BOSTON.com, 7/30). In San Jose, Gary Peterson wrote, "However it is explained, ESPN comes off looking like an organization of witless amateurs and/or feckless enablers." ESPN's explanation "smells funny, which leads to the presumption that the real catalyst for making the blog go away is ESPN's deference to James, with whom the multimedia oligarchy maintains an unofficial partnership" (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 8/1). 

MAKING SOMETHING OUT OF NOTHING: In Miami, Dan Le Batard wrote the "spiking of that story became more interesting than the story itself." The handling of the situation "got ESPN undressed, and what fell on the sports-media empire didn't smell much like rose petals." ESPN made the "correct ethical decision" in not running Markazi's story, but when the net has "drawn nearly 10 million viewers by doing a recent infomercial with James, perception drowns reality, circumstantial evidence and cynicism merging to choke credibility." Le Batard: "ESPN is going to look like it is protecting James here, even though it isn't. ... The irony here is that, in reaching for fairness, ESPN created exactly the opposite impression" (MIAMI HERALD, 8/1).

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