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Question of the day: Is the ESPN-LeBron James relationship going to cause the network more grief than it’s worth?

July 29, 2010 | 10:55 am

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Reporters from around the Tribune family tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to chime in and tell them why they're wrong.

Shannon Owens, Orlando Sentinel

ESPN was right to pull the LeBron James story off its website detailing a wild night of partying in Las Vegas Wednesday.

But not because the story had no value. People have a strong interest in reading or watching stories about the personal lives and activities of professional athletes, for their good or bad deeds. Trust me, the trending topics on twitter and good trends will leave you scratching your head sometimes.

ESPN was right to pull the story because it would have created yet another double standard of coverage for LeBron James.

Why should he, again, be singled out for routine behavior and choices in the fast-paced social lives of athletes? Nothing illegal (that we know of so far) happened at this party. And let's be real, this isn't the first or last wild party an athlete, CEO, politician or average guy with connections or cash to blow will engage in.

In fairness, the article was not a negative smear campaign against LeBron. It was just more endless air and space about the “King” with no rings.

Paul Doyle, Hartford 

Was it worth it?

The almighty Nielsen numbers say ESPN got everything it wanted from airing the excruciating LeBron James infomercial earlier this month. “The Decision” was a rating bonanza for the folks in Bristol, but does that justify the fallout?

No less an authority than ESPN Ombudsman Don Ohlmeyer said the company made a mistake. And criticism for seemingly selling their journalistic soul to Team LeBron has come from every corner of the country, even before ESPN’s latest LeBron issue.

A story posted briefly on ESPN.com portrayed LeBron and his entourage as immature hedonists during a Las Vegas excursion. The story disappeared from the site, prompting speculation that Team LeBron pressured the World Wide Leader to protect their star’s image.

An ESPN spokesman said the story was post prematurely before going through the usual editorial process. Really, though, what’s the controversy – a highly paid professional athlete comes off as kind of jerk while partying with friends at a nightclub? This is news?

The problem for ESPN is perception -- by partaking in “The Decision,” ESPN opened itself up for critiques of all future coverage of LeBron. And a media company that produces so much quality work and employs some of the best sports journalists in the country doesn’t need that baggage.

So the answer is no, it wasn’t worth it.

Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times

So LeBron James went to Las Vegas, partied, did some drinking, socialized with some underdressed women and this was a newflash to ESPNLosAngeles web site whose Arash Markazi authors a new “Behind The Velvet Ropes” blog.

Markazi wrote a breathless account of an evening spent with James. It seemed a harmless if unsophisticated account of observing a rich athlete in Vegas until ESPN pulled the piece from the web site.

It had been “inadvertently” posted before editing was the official ESPN response but there is another interpretation -- that James was embarrassed and pressured ESPN to pull the story. That conspiracy theory might not have traction except for the sophomoric “The Decision” show that James and Co. foisted on ESPN when James announced his choice of Miami over Cleveland.

So we’ve learned once again that ESPN is clumsy when dealing with big sports stars. And Markazi might find the ropes less velvet and more steel curtain from now on.

Updated at 12:06 p.m.

Shandel Richardson, Sun Sentinel

Leave ESPN alone.

There, I said it. The self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader In Sports” has been under fire since LeBron James turned his free agency into an hourlong program. Big deal. The network catering to athletes is old news. Lance Armstrong and Kevin Garnett appear on ESPN commercials. Chris Webber once hocked ESPN The Magazine on television.

So why all the fuss over ESPN’s intimacy with LeBron? The average fan could not care less about the relationship between the two. When is the last time you walked into a bar and overheard two fans discussing ESPN’s objectivity in covering the NBA? They care about one thing: if the ball goes in the hoop. 

This is nothing more than a media-created story, and a case of other news outlets disgusted with the taste of sour grapes.   

Photo: LeBron James. Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press. 
 

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