Sara Nasif
Perspectives Writer

Photo: Kobe Bryant walking into the Courtroom Photo Credit: www.slate.com

Sunday, January 26th, 2020 was a gloomy day for basketball fans when Kobe Bryant was killed in a helicopter accident with his 13-year old daughter and seven others. There is still an ongoing investigation about why the helicopter crashed and authorities believe that the weather is to blame. As the investigation continues, the world has wasted no time to mourn the loss of this NBA All-Star. He had several basketball accomplishments such as winning five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers. Bryant was also one of the very few athletes to win an Oscar for best animated short films “Dear Basketball”, which was narrated by him about retirement from sports.

Ever since his death was announced, the world has been mourning him in every possible way starting from social media posts from fans, celebrities, and his teammates; in addition to a memorial outside of Staples Center in LA where it is considered home to the Lakers. The loss of Bryant was devastating to many, “The death of a legend” was one of the most popular headlines in addition to many more describing how much of an important athletic figure Bryant was not to only to the American culture but to the world. Kobe’s death may have been one of the most influential losses in 2020; however, it has divided the people about how they should feel especially with Kobe’s past.

After Kobe Bryant’s death, reporter Felicia Sonmez who works for the Washington Post tried to shed light on the fact that the “Legend Kobe Bryant” was a rapist and faced extremely unfair consequences. Sonmez received death threats and hate mail only because she was trying to do her job to the public as a journalist which is putting the truth out for the public. Aside from the consequences she faced from the public, Sonmez was also suspended from writing for the Washington Post and was put on a mandatory leave. Death should not be an excuse to forget someone’s wrongful actions that left a mark on someone. Sonmez was trying to bring it up to people’s attention that the legend that is being glorified for all the good he’s done has actually committed a crime against someone and was still able to continue his life and add to his accomplishments. By suspending a reporter that is advocating for women’s rights, and is shedding light on a true story, Washington post is turning a blind eye towards the sexual assault. When Sonmez tweeted about the rape allegation, her goal was not to diminish Bryant’s accomplishments but rather to remind sexual assault victims that someone is out there advocating for them.

Even though Sonmez’s report may have been insensitive to Kobe’s wife and family, she brings up a valid point about how people celebrate and remember their heroes. From pop stars like Michael Jackson to numerous other sports celebrities, we glorify and remember them as impactful people. As a reminder, Michael Jackson was charged with sexual abuse against young boys and he was very well-known as the performer that changed pop music genre with his songs. Again, do we as people erase these bad actions performed by these people which includes Kobe Bryant? It should be noted that Kobe’s case helped him become a better person from his experience and it is not fair to talk about his case now because he is dead. However, we cannot disregard what happened in the past and what this means for the victims of sexual violence.

To provide some background about the case, the accuser was a 19-year-old hotel employee who was working at Cordillera Lodge and Spa in Edwards where Kobe Bryant was staying. The accuser filed a report on July 1st 2003 and Bryant was questioned. Byrant at first tried to deny his encounter with the accuser but later he had admitted to having sex with the accuser, however he claimed it was totally consensual. The accuser remained anonymous despite several tries of Bryant’s defense team to leak her identity to the public. After the defendant filed a police report, she was asked to get a rape kit or a physical exam for blood and semen. The tests showed there were injuries consistent with sexual assault such as several lacerations and tears in the vaginal area, as well as bruises around the victim’s neck that resulted from Bryant chocking her. During the pre-trial hearing, Bryant’s defense team has tried to attack the victim’s credibility by talking about her sexual history and claiming that these injuries shown by the rape kit could be the result of having sex with multiple of men after the assault. Bryant’s defense team continued to smear her reputation by stating that she was previously hospitalized for mental illness and attempted to commit suicide. The case proceeded for about a year, and while the victim was utterly suffering Bryant was still playing for the Lakers. Bryant flew back and forth between games and courts in Colorado, he would often appear a few minutes before the tip off. Eventually, Kobe and the victim would settle on a suit in which he apologized directly to his victim for his actions.

Kobe Bryant’s death was devastating, but does he really deserve being called a legend or being praised by millions of people after he sexually assaulted a woman? What message does this send to society when a rapist is praised after his death because of athletic achievements? Sexual assault has been a huge part of American lives; studies show that 1 in every 6 women have been a victim of sexual assault. When a rapist gets to continue his life like the ordinary and win several NBA titles, it sends a message that successful people do not face consequences of their wrong doing. The way Kobe Bryant is being praised sends a message to rape victims that if their rapist is someone who has several accomplishments they will not be remembered as a rapist and will be praised. After the case in Colorado was dismissed, there was a decrease in victims reporting rape to authorities because of their fear of not being believed and being treated the same way Bryant’s victim was treated.

Byrant may have been one of the most influential athletes in the American culture, but that should not be an excuse to us as a society to forget that he hurt someone and committed a crime against them, he should not be honored the way he is right now when he is a rapist. Sexual assault is one of the most heinous crimes in the United States, therefore it should not be condoned in any form and should not be less serious when it is committed by someone with power and well known to the public. As a society, we need to fight any type of sexual assault, and by glorifying a rapist for other good deeds he’s done, we are giving rapists exceptions.