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People are furious about Kobe Bryant’s Oscar win. Here’s why

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Kayleigh Dray
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“Time’s up, Kobe Bryant. Just kidding, here’s an Oscar!”

Former basketball player Kobe Bryant and director Glen Keane won the award for Best Animated Short at this year’s Oscars.

Their film Dear Basketball, a six-minute short in which Bryant narrates a letter announcing his retirement from the sport after 20 years, has won critical acclaim.

And the athlete’s acceptance speech also went down well – particularly as he used it to take aim at FOX News anchor Laura Ingraham’s recent comments that players like LeBron James should “shut up and dribble” instead of talking about politics.

Onstage at the Academy Awards on Sunday, Bryant said: “As basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble but I’m glad we do a little bit more than that.”

However, his Oscars victory has not gone down well with many people online – and those who recall what happened 15 years ago will understand why.

Bryant and Glen Keane accepting their Oscars for Best Animated Short

In 2003, Bryant was accused of rape by an employee of a mountain resort in Eagle County, Colorado. According to the Los Angeles Times, Bryant “first said no sex had taken place, then said it had, saying repeatedly he thought it was consensual”. Investigators later discovered blood in the young woman’s underwear – and her blood was also found on Bryant’s shirt.

The case never made it to court, as the criminal charges were dropped once the accuser decided not to testify. It’s arguably not surprising that she made the choice not to proceed, given that her sexual history and mental health had already been shredded in the press and a highly-publicised preliminary hearing.

The accuser later filed a civil suit against Bryant, which was settled out of court on 2 March 2005. It was at this point that Bryant released an apology – an apology which has been termed “as close to an admission of guilt as you can get without admitting guilt” by Jessica Luther, author of the book Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape.

Kobe Bryant and his attorney entering a courtroom in 2003, after he had been accused of rape by a hotel employee 

Bryant’s statement, in full, reads:

First, I want to apologise directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologise to her for my behaviour 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 apologise 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.

It was with the 2003 rape case in mind that abortion activist Renee Bracey Sherman sarcastically tweeted, after Bryant’s Academy Award win: “Kobe Bryant just won an Oscar. Rape accusations really do ruin a man’s career.”

Sherman later found herself criticised by a number of Bryant fans, many of whom dubbed his accuser a “liar” and “gold-digger”.

“Didn’t publicly admit to raping her,” wrote one. “He apologised because she didn’t feel it was consensual.”

Sherman replied succinctly: “If it’s not consensual, it’s called rape.” 

Of course, Sherman was not the only one to point out that Bryant’s win felt contradictory to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements.

Bryant was not the only winner to spark controversy at the 2018 Academy Awards. Gary Oldman, who picked up the Best Actor gong for his performance in Darkest Hour, has also been accused of violence against women.

The actor’s now ex-wife, Donya Fiorentino, said in 2001 that he had choked her and beaten her with a telephone in front of their young children. Fiorentino reiterated her story in February this year, telling The Independent: “Our marriage was a giant car crash in which demented things happened. I lost my self-esteem…I was broken. I would rather get eaten by a great white shark than go through that marriage again.”

Oldman has denied Fiorentino’s claims, saying through a representative that the police investigated her story and pressed no charges.

Images: Rex Features

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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