ESPN’s Markazi: ‘97 Story Spiked By School Paper

Last week ESPN pulled a story from its internet website server written by staff reporter Arash Markazi that chronicled a night out in Vegas with LeBron James and his entourage.

Arash Markazi had ESPN and High School sports stories spiked

ESPN Editor-in-Chief Rob King later explained that the story was spiked because, “Arash did not properly identify himself as a reporter or clearly state his intentions to write a story.”

The facts of the story, which Markazi stood behind, were never disputed by ESPN or James.

On Nov. 8, 1997, Eric Sondheimer of the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported on a controversy involving the sports editor of the Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks, CA) High School student newspaper. (The Times story can now be found archived in the newspaper’s “Freedom of Speech” collection.)

When Notre Dame High’s top-ranked football team lost back-to-back games last month, the sports editor of the school newspaper decided to write a commentary examining the Knights’ future. The team could be headed for difficult times, he argued, when it moves to a tougher league next year.

The story was never published.

The school newspaper advisor, Helen Chen, said she made the decision to hold the story after pressure from Principal Stephanie Connelly and football Coach Kevin Rooney, who said it would have hurt team morale after two straight losses.

“They wanted us to wait until the football season ended,” Chen said. “It was really hard for us. They’re [the students] supposed to be learning what true journalism is about.”

Rooney said the story, written by Notre Dame student Arash Markazi, was completely accurate but he did not like its timing.

“I felt it would be in the best interest of the school not to print it,” Rooney said.

Sound familiar?

Markazi was quoted in the ‘97 L.A. Times story:

“I worked hard on the story and before we went to press, they gave a copy to Connelly and Rooney, and they didn’t like it very much. Most of the players on the team read my column and it might have affected their confidence next year going to Division I.”

Newspaper editor Chen said she pulled the story, “out of respect for (Coach) Rooney. My concern (though) is if there’s some kind of major controversy, we’re going to be told we can’t do a story.

So what exactly did Markazi, who was a sophomore at Notre Dame High at the time, write about the football team that caused such “major controversy“?

I made some calls this morning here in Los Angeles and found out. Read more…

The Real Reason ESPN Spiked LeBron-Vegas Story

The real reason ESPN spiked the LeBron James-Vegas story by ESPN reporter Arash Markazi had nothing to do with anything Markazi wrote about James last weekend.

ESPN reported on unathenticated Jerry Jones video

(ESPN didn’t directly authenticate Jones video before airing it)

Last April, in a span of less than a week, ESPN repeatedly reported on two stories infinitely more embarrassing to high profile sports figures. But there’s one key difference between those two ESPN-aired stories and the LeBron-Vegas piece that was pulled.  A difference which explains why ESPN was so quick to axe Markazi’s work.

One of those embarrassing stories ESPN was willing to cover involved a drunk Jerry Jones being secretly videotaped at a bar by a person who, to this day, was never identified. The other story involved private photos of Josh Hamilton taken at a bar that were never intended for media dissemination. Read more…