Kobe Bryant was an American professional basketball player who played for the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA for his entire career. The cascade of emotion; disbelief, sorrow, and rage set in the aftermath of Kobe Bryant’s untimely death. With the outpouring of tributes, people barely stopped to acknowledge that Bryant did something terrible, in the midst of his many wonderful achievements.
In July 2003, Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee of the Cordillera Lodge and Spa in Edwards, Colo which gave rise to the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case. On June 30, Bryant had checked into the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera, a hotel in Edwards, Colorado, before Richard Steadman had surgery nearby on July 2. On July 1, the woman accused Bryant of raping her in his hotel room. She registered the incident with the police and Bryant was questioned by officials about bruises on the accuser’s neck. Bryant claimed that he did not ask for permission directly and initially denied ever having sex with the woman. He left her neck with a bruise and drew blood from her skin. She declined to testify after Bryant’s legal team badly threatened the victim and tarnished her image. Since she declined to testify, the case was dismissed.
Kobe Bryant managed to close the case with a settlement
Bryant released an apology after the case got dismissed that said that he now understands how she feels she did not agree with the encounter after months of reviewing the discovery, listening to her council, and even her testimony in person. A separate civil suit was later brought against Bryant by the woman. He later settled in the civil suit for an undisclosed amount, he lost endorsement campaigns and shelled out his wife’s $4 million on an eight-carat purple diamond apology ring and Bryant openly apologizing though denying the allegations, to his accuser, the media, and family.
The case was scarcely a footnote to the weekend’s mourning. But people, particularly after the story resurfaced in the #MeToo campaign in 2017, know this about Bryant in 2020. The #MeToo campaign has helped us to recognize that sexual harassment in a more complex way. A person can be nice to their children, their spouses, donate tons of money, and create inedible work that can influence people and can be a monster as well. And yet, in the face of disaster, it’s still hard to process the legacy. We sometimes fall into a binary of good or evil, wrong or right, on the side of survivors or on the side of a rapist due to the stresses of social media in which we respond to unfathomable news in real-time. It’s rarely that easy.
Bryant aged and matured, become an official women’s sports ambassador, coached the basketball team of his daughter, and took pride in becoming the father of a girl child. But his remorse is negated by none of his commitments to his daughters or to the women’s sports. We have to live with the tragedy that has befallen Bryant and his family, understand the grandeur he showed on the court, and hopefully perhaps for the first time, count on the irreparable trauma he inflicted.
Consequences of the sexual assault case on Kobe’s brand deals
Kobe Bryant lost several endorsements and brand deals as a result of the case filed against him. Even though the charges were dropped, Kobe had to bear the consequences of something he may or may not have done. Over the years, he reclaimed most of the endorsements with Nike, Spalding, and Coca-Cola after the incident died down. However, Nutella and McDonald’s chose to keep themselves away from this controversy and did not renew Kobe’s contract.
Another grave consequence that Kobe had to face because of the allegations came years later when he won an Oscar for his animation film. At the height of the Me Too movement, he was denied accession to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences this week despite winning an Oscar. Although there were other reasons behind the move, the assault case was one of them.
Bryant certainly deserves the benefit of the doubt, however, the way his legal team got the case dropped raises some eyebrows. Whether Kobe truly committed such a blunder it was a ‘claim to fame’ for the woman who lodged the case is up in the air. With his untimely death, Bryant has been showered with love and respect by fans all over the world but it doesn’t mean we sweep these uncomfortable matters under the rug. If at all the case had any merit, it needs to be discussed in a civilized manner.