Editorial: Exploiting Kobe and Retrying His Past is Destructive to All Who Grieve Today
Written in response to critical social media comments over the lionization of the Lakers superstar.
I posted the following on Facebook an hour after Kobe’s passing was confirmed today:
I‘m not keen on bringing this up, but in response to the news of Kobe Bryant’s death it’s been tough to miss:
It’s been mentioned in comments to my posts and others that Kobe had faced a serious sexual assault allegation in his past. Yes he did, in 2003–2004.
In the midst of all the news today I had honestly forgotten about it.
It comes back to this: No one should be lionized, and Kobe was no superhero.
He was a human being.
We mourn Kobe’s legacy in sports today, and the good he’s done.
No, one’s past should not be ignored. And I will never downplay such an accusation. But it is important to note Kobe never admitted guilt, though he admitted to adultery and publicly apologized to his accuser following her second case — a civil case — and settled out of court after she refused to testify in the first.
He was never convicted, and no one here knows all the facts. If he was pronounced guilty, damn right he should have been shunned.
But today is not the time to retry Kobe, and that’s how it’s going to remain. A settlement — which may well say a great deal — but never pronounced guilty.
I’m not going to retry him either. That case is long closed.
I appreciate the good Kobe has done, and his sports legacy.
If the accusation was true, as a man, he may have been something less than a hero.
But I don’t know the facts. None of us do.
When I was a special education teacher my students loved him because he did some great work for our youth and their families. Remember him for the good he’s done today.
We can analyze the rest at another time.
For the record, though Kobe never formally admitted his guilt as accused, he did issue the following stark apology:
First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her for my behavior that night and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure. I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado.
I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. 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.
I issue this statement today fully aware that while one part of this case ends today, another remains. I understand that the civil case against me will go forward. That part of this case will be decided by and between the parties directly involved in the incident and will no longer be a financial or emotional drain on the citizens of the state of Colorado.
Shortly after my posting on Facebook, news broke that Kobe’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also lost her life in the helicopter accident.
Soon after that, I went on eBay with a nagging impulse. Kobe autographs, selling for a premium. I called a friend who owns a local pawn shop. He said it was “disgusting,” but a dozen people came in the store today asking for Kobe signatures.
I went back on eBay minutes later. This is what I saw:
My appeal is this. I understand human nature. We all do.
But whether it’s retrying a serious but completed case that was settled — of which I am neither claiming exoneration nor ignoring Kobe’s words — or profiting off someone who has been deceased for not even a day, Kobe Bryant has next of kin who are devastated today.
As are millions around the globe.
I’m not naive. Nothing that has transpired following today’s tragedy had been unexpected.
He was and will remain a public figure. In some circles he was a hero.
Everything is fair game, sure.
Can we wait until the man is buried at least?
My condolences go to Kobe’s family and friends, and everyone mourning all nine passengers whose lives have been lost today.
Kobe Bean Bryant: August 23, 1978 — January 26, 2020