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Grieving shouldn’t mean idolization

NBA Star Kobe Bryant died on Jan 26.
Photo courtesy of Facebook

It’s important to recognize kobe bryant’s mistakes too

On January 26, the world lost an all-star athlete. A father. A mentor. And an alleged rapist.  

In 2003, basketball legend Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a 19- year old girl in a Colorado ski resort. The accuser reportedly suffered bruising, especially on her neck, and vaginal tearing. After being informed of the accusation, Bryant responded, “What’s gonna happen?” What ensued was nearly a year of investigation into a crime to which Bryant pled not guilty.  

In a press conference following the event, Bryant said, “Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did. After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” While the case was eventually dropped, a civil lawsuit was filed against Bryant by the accuser, and the parties settled. To this day, it is legally unclear whether Bryant committed sexual assault. The accuser has not made her identity public, and has not made any statements on the matter following the tragic accident that killed Bryant and his young daughter along with eight others.  

To a lot of people, Kobe Bryant is remembered as a star, a winning parent, a philanthropist, a mentor. Bryant funded after school programs for disadvantaged youths, worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, even started his own foundation for homeless families and children. The father of four spent twenty seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, leading them to success in the NBA Championships several times and becoming one of the most talented basketball players in history.  

 It’s indisputable that Kobe Bryant did some great things. But some people, like his accuser, may have seen a different side of him. In the wake of his death, survivors of sexual assault must endure the constant idolization of a man who is accused of rape. The world will never truly know what happened in that ski lodge, but the accusation alone is still a part of Bryant’s legacy. People and situations are rarely good or bad; binary thinking doesn’t account for emotional nuance. Two things can be true at the same time. Fact: Bryant did great things for his community. Also fact: Bryant was accused of sexual assault.  

Yet the media coverage and tweets from grieving fans have overlooked the bad parts of Bryant’s legacy. For survivors of sexual assault, the complete overlooking of his rape case is a further reminder that people in power are often immune to legal or social consequences. Whether Bryant committed the atrocity is irrelevant. Minimizing and glossing over parts of the story disregards the suffering of sexual assault victims.  

The world lost a star on that fateful foggy day in California. But part of that star’s story is dark, and for at least one person out there, Bryant’s death brings complex feelings. People aren’t all good or all bad: Grieve, show respect, but remember people aren’t all good or all bad.  

 

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