ESPN released a statement saying it won’t be publishing Arash Markazi’s behind-the-scenes look at LeBron’s party in Vegas. Rob King, the ESPN.com editor in Chief said, “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.” Added Markazi: “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.” This scenario was one of the theories we posted earlier today. Having spent some time in the celebrity world and having done plenty of “fly-on-the-wall” reporting, here’s how this thing probably went down:
Publicists for Tao probably contacted Markazi and said LeBron was having dinner and a party, and they could “place him at the table.” This sort of thing is common with publicists – they need the coverage (ie – Tao is the coolest place ever, look at how Lebron parties!), and will extend this type of offer to someone they have a working relationship with (Markazi’s connected all over Vegas). In all of our experiences, this agreement is unbeknownst to the celebrity (in this case, LeBron). So on the night of the party, Markazi probably showed up at dinner, LeBron’s people were like, ‘who is this guy?’ and then the publicist probably said something to the effect of, ‘he’s my friend, he’s cool’ and that was all he needed to get access for the entire night.
So all the while Markazi is talking to LeBron’s crew, he’s not identifying himself as a reporter. (And since he’s not conducting actual interviews, does that really matter? This obviously can be up for debate. As long as he’s not lying or deceitful, where’s the beef?)
And as you can see in the story, it’s not like he’s quoting people he’s talking to. Nowhere will you see, “tells ESPNLA.com” or “told me.” So for about 3-4 hours, Markazi was probably social and probably didn’t drink much so that he could remember details like LeBron eating fish with chop sticks. No need for a notepad/tape recorder either – he could have been taking occasional notes in his phone. (The only time this gets dicey would be if LeBron’s people asked him, ‘so, what do you do?’ Thing is, these celebrity types and their crews are so narcissistic and self-important, they could give a shit less what you do or where you came from.)
Our only question is why, at the last minute, ESPN got skittish about the story. Clearly, Markazi had to notify an editor or two that he was heading to Vegas for LeBron’s party. People had to have known about this. So why spike it? Did Chris Broussard (or any other reporter close to the Maverick Carter-LeBron duo) see it in the system (or on ESPN.com) and alert editors that maybe something was up? Or did LeBron’s people see it when it was online and react with, ‘wait a second, he never said he was a reporter!’