NEW YORK – ESPN.com removed an article chronicling Lebron James' activities during a weekend in Las Vegas.
ESPN said the article, by ESPNLosAngeles.com reporter Arash Markazi, was available for about 9½ hours on its server Wednesday. It described the new Miami Heat star drinking at nightclubs and receiving a cake from go-go dancers in a VIP section.
Rob King, editor in chief of ESPN Digital Media, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Thursday that the story was posted before it had been cleared by senior editors and that Markazi didn't identify himself as a reporter in gathering the information used to report the story.
"I made the call," King said. "I just plainly felt it was wrong to gather information in this way, so we would not publish the information in any fashion."
ESPN has been criticized by some for turning over air time to James for his July 8 announcement that he was leaving Cleveland to sign with Miami.
The network issued a statement from Markazi saying he understood the decision not to run his story.
"It is important to note that 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," he said.
Vince Doria, ESPN's senior vice president and director of news, was quoted by ESPN.com on July 21 as saying the network's newsgathering operation was not part of the decision to air James' show and that the decision by the company's business department "ultimately had a damaging impact on our reputation as journalists."
"You can't justify paying for news. There are no excuses here," Doria said. "The hope is that we learned something from this, that we won't repeat the error, and that we can restore any lost confidence in our ability to objectively report and present the news."