Former basketball pro Kobe Bryant will have to make room on his crowded mantle for a new (and special) award – his first Oscar. He won the coveted trophy for writing and co-producing the animated short film, “Dear Basketball.”
With another achievement on his resume, Bryant should be riding a wave of euphoria and joy. But like so many others in recent months, he’s the latest target in a massive web of sexual assault allegations looming over Hollywood – otherwise known as the “me too” campaign.
It’s been 15 years since Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado.
The country has elected three different presidents within this time frame, and although Bryant was eventually proven innocent, he may be haunted by speculation and condemnation surrounding the incident for years to come.
The ordeal led to a clean-shaven, and visibly shaken, Bryant delivering a tearful public apology to his wife and young children during a press conference in 2003.
Still, the backlash was fast and furious, prompting jeers from naysayers who questioned Bryant’s innocence despite the evidence. His career veered in a perilous direction, and the rebuilding process was extensive.
Today, more than a decade later, Bryant’s name is being interwoven with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and former NBC host Matt Lauer – all of whom suffered cataclysmic ends to their careers because of various sexual misconduct charges.
Prior to Sunday’s festivities, more than 16,000 people signed an online petition to revoke Kobe Bryant’s Oscar nomination, created in late January.
“The Oscars almost avoided nominating sexual predators for awards,” the petition reads. “Woody Allen and James Franco didn’t get anything. But Kobe Bryant, who was charged with a horrific sexual assault, was nominated.”
Bryant initially denied the encounter altogether, but mounting evidence prompted a confession. Just days before the trial, the young woman decided not to testify and the charges were immediately dropped, after which she filed a civil suit and settled out of court with Bryant for an unknown amount.
Kelsey Bourgeois, who started the petition, recently explained, “He [Bryant] settled with his accuser. So in my mind, that doesn’t really make him innocent — it just makes him able to pay off someone who he wronged. I, of course, couldn’t possibly know what actually happened. But we have to believe women, especially when they accuse men who are typically ‘above the law,’ so to speak.”
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times published a scathing response to Bryant’s Oscar win.
“Many of the industry’s towering male egos have been toppled by an avalanche of sexual harassment, assault and rape allegations,” explains writer Robin Abcarian.
“How is it that the #MeToo moment, so fervently embraced by women such as Oprah Winfrey, whose impassioned Golden Globes speech about a new day for girls led to speculation she’d run for president, has given a pass to Bryant? The main reason the rape charge against him was dropped is that his accuser refused to testify against him. Who could blame her?”
Twitter users were swift, immediately criticizing the decision to reward the former Los Angeles Lakers star as being out of touch.
“People say that rape allegations will ruin a man’s life but here is Kobe winning an Oscar in front of my own eyes,” podcaster Aminatou Sow wrote. people say that rape allegations will ruin a man’s life but here is Kobe winning an Oscar in front of my own eyes
— Aminatou Sow (@aminatou) March 5, 2018
“So we’re all just… ignoring the whole Kobe rape accusation thing I guess huh?” Entertainment Weekly correspondent Dana Schwartz tweeted.
So we’re all just… ignoring the whole Kobe rape accusation thing I guess huh?
— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) March 5, 2018
Accepting the award, the 39-year-old said the win was validation he could succeed both on and off the court, and his own acceptance speech was political in tone.
“As basketball players, we’re told to shut up and dribble,” Bryant said, a reference to comments made by Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who suggested athletes like LeBron James shouldn’t comment on politics. “I’m glad we did a little bit more than that.”