On Sunday, March 4, movie lovers around the world rejoiced as the 90th Academy Awards celebrated the year’s best films. On a night filled with historic accomplishments, one of the most surprising moments happened when an Oscar was handed out to basketball legend Kobe Bryant. His short film Dear Basketball won the honor for best animated short. Sports fans and cinephiles cheered, but many other viewers
Observing the reaction to Bryant’s Oscar win, it might be easy to forget he was arrested for sexual assault 14 years ago, after a 19-year-old hotel employee accused the superstar of rape. This case has been scrubbed from the memories of most diehard sports fans, who either willingly chose to forget the incident or did not care enough to remember.
In the current climate, where sexual predators are finally facing consequences for their actions, Bryant is still reaping the benefits of his success. Just a few months earlier, two of his jersey numbers were retired by the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, the Oscars showed that Bryant can walk into a room filled with celebrities who championed the “Time’s Up” movement, only to be overwhelmed with applause after the Academy presented him with an award.
Even after the movement against sexual harassment in Hollywood, Bryant is still untouchable. Barely anyone mentions the charges and the million-dollar settlement Bryant paid to avoid potentially going to prison. Instead, the basketball superstar is hailed as a hero despite the evidence against him, including DNA evidence and his confession of lying to the police.
The case against Bryant was ultimately dropped after the accuser refused to testify against him. This may have been due to the intense public scrutiny she was being forced to endure and the death threats she was getting from fans. Bryant then apologized to the victim without admitting any guilt, paid her a settlement and bought his wife a $4 million apology ring.
Neither the Lakers nor the NBA felt it necessary to suspend Bryant for his actions. His fans, while vicious at first, eventually forgot all about the superstar’s legal troubles. The basketball icon went on to make over $680 million throughout his career.
Bryant’s career never suffered for his alleged actions in that hotel room in 2003. He won three more championships, had 13 more All-Star appearances, won a league MVP award and finished with many more honors. He will, without question, be enshrined into the NBA Hall of Fame and be remembered by most not as an accused rapist, but as one of the greatest basketball players of all time.
That is how most people will remember Bryant, but not all. Now is the time to hold professional athletes to the same standards as everyone else. While we may live in a time where sexual assault is being taken more seriously now more than ever before, the most male-dominated industry in the country is still unchanging.
It is hard not to notice the hypocrisy of moviemakers when they purposely ignore Ryan Seacrest on the red carpet and shame Casey Affleck into not presenting, but then hand an accused rapist a golden statue. Such behavior is not only irresponsible, but immoral. Praising men who have been accused of rape further perpetuates a rape culture that women are fighting so hard to tear down.
Al Franken, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K and more have all been justly removed from their positions due to their history of sexual misconduct. Despite their talent, these men have deservedly suffered for their actions. The same standard is applied to the sports industry. However, when Hollywood refuses to enforce the standards that famous faces fought so hard to set in their own industry, it is difficult to imagine anyone else
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