Did LeBron ‘Entity’ Pay Gray For ESPN Foreplay?

The fallout of ESPN’s regrettable decision to air the LeBron James conflict of interest-fest last night continues.

LeBron James Donation Button On Website

(No thanks)

CNBC’s Darren Rovell reports Friday that the man who dragged out James’ ESPN-branded ‘Decision’ through two commercial breaks, interviewer Jim Gray, was paid by an “entity” representing the interests of James and the production itself:

Gray’s travel and payment for “The Decision” show was being paid by the entity set up by Team LeBron and not by ESPN, as CNBC has learned.

Gray has since denied that he took money from James or his marketing company, LRMR - as reported by Bloomberg’s Michelle Steele on Twitter:

“I did not take one penny from LeBron James or LRMR. ESPN paid for travel and my own expenses. I received a small stipend and the rest went for charity.”

Rovell though did not report that Gray took money from James or LRMR. Refresher:

Gray’s travel and payment for “The Decision” show was being paid by the entity set up by Team LeBron and not by ESPN, as CNBC has learned.

Sounds like there may be some parsing in Gray’s statement.

Rovell’s Friday report also included this item:

As part of the partnership, ESPN turned over some of the advertising inventory in the show to James’ team to sell commercials to the likes of the University of Phoenix, Bing and Vitaminwater. James’ team said it would donate $2.5 million from the proceeds of the ads to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Thursday, Dawn C. Chmielewski of the LOS ANGELES TIMES reported of the production’s financial haul:

ESPN agreed to donate the time, sponsors committed about $3 million — which Nike has pledged to match. Proceeds go to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The L.A. TIMES report about the Nike match did come after Rovell’s report, but what about that stray $500,000?

LeBron James in trash can

As James appeared to use charity as cover for his hour-long, ESPN-endorsed infomercial, at the very least he should release to the public every last financial detail of the production.

With all that in mind, I think I may hold off on clicking the “donate” button on James’ official website. That “donate” button leads straight to a paypal.com payment page for something called the, “LeBron James Family Foundation.” No description of exactly what that is is provided on the page or anywhere on James’ website.

No thanks.