As the world – fine, a few geeks who are interested in sports media and ESPN – waits for ESPN to decide whether or not to suspend writer Arash Markazi for not “properly identifying himself as a reporter,” let’s check in on some opinions, shall we?
Dan LeBatard: “The way the relationship is with Lebron James though, and this network’s relationship [with him] after the decision, makes it complicated because there’s this perception that ESPN is in bed with him. And now, you bring more attention to the story when you pull it.”
Tony Kornheiser: “I don’t know what it means to properly identify yourself, I don’t know who has to know you’re a writer and who doesn’t when a guy is a public figure who appears to be, for the most part, in a public place.”
Richard Sandomir, New York Times: “It would appear that ESPN needs to fully comprehend, 24/7, that it can’t get into business with the athletes it covers — even if it ensures an exclusive, even if it tells its reporters to act with transparency — although it might result in superstars like James fleeing into the cone of silence.”
Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated: “By today’s logic, Esquire should have spiked Gay Talese’s ‘Frank Sinatra Has A Cold.'” [Background: In 1965, Talese attempted to interview Sinatra but was denied; part of the legendary profile that ensued included "observing the man himself wherever he could." Obviously nobody is comparing Markazi's piece on LeBron to that one.]
Tommy Craggs, Deadspin: “Lots of good journalism has been done by reporters leaning against walls and taking discreet notes. Lots of bad journalism has been done by reporters walking in the front door and announcing themselves. The point isn’t the rule itself but the outcome of the reporting. If the quotes are accurate, if the story is an honest accounting, who the hell cares that Markazi didn’t identify himself?
We offered our version of what might have happened yesterday. We stand by our opinion that – based on the information that has been presented by ESPN – suspending Markazi would be a bad move. If Markazi at any point lied about who he was, that’ll change our opinion. But we find nothing wrong with simply observing a famous basketball player in his natural habitat. If he can get excellent access, great! Blame LeBron’s bloated posse for not tightening up the list.
And regardless of what ESPN says, an editor or two there had to know what Markazi’s game-plan was before he left for Vegas. How does the story get so far in the process and at the last minute get yanked? (That’s why we still feel LeBron’s people had a say in the story getting pulled, even though ESPN denies this.) And it’s not like Markazi was conducting interviews without notifying his subjects. He was simply observing. Sneaky? Sure. Deceitful? Nope (although this could change if new information emerges). Something that LeBron’s people would see as underhanded and perhaps get pissed off about? Certainly.
You think Tiger Woods was thrilled when SI followed him around the craps tables a few years back?