Why Kobe Bryant’s Oscar Win for ‘Dear Basketball’ Is Controversial in ‘Me Too’ Era
Kobe Bryant‘s Oscar win Sunday night sparked plenty of indignation on social media given the current call-out culture and an awards season where sexual harassment and assault have been at the forefront of discussions about the industry.
The NBA star, who took home an Oscar for an animated short he wrote and narrated, titled “Dear Basketball,” was arrested and charged with sexual assault back in 2003, nearly 15 years before the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements dominated the cultural conversation.
Bryant’s win signaled more than simply the athlete’s first-ever Academy Award – it also represented to some viewers the short memory that Hollywood has toward disgraced, towering male figures. Though Harvey Weinstein was a prominent punchline throughout the night and James Franco was snubbed by the Academy for his film, The Disaster Artist, mentions of Bryant’s controversial past did not impinge upon his nomination or eventual win.
Here, a look back at the 2003 case filed by a then-19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado, who accused Bryant of rape.
The woman told authorities that she was assaulted by Bryant while working at the Lodge and Spa at Cordillera.
According to the woman, Bryant asked her to come back to his room later in the evening after she first showed him to his room, which she did. She would later tell the Eagle County sheriff’s investigators that they kissed for several minutes before he began to grope her aggressively. She detailed how he put both his hands around her neck and, after bending her over a chair, removed one hand to pull down her underwear.
“At that point I was just kind of scared and I said, ‘No,’ a few times,” she told investigators. When asked how she was sure that Bryant had heard her, she responded, “Because every time I said, ‘No,’ he tightened his hold around me.”
Bryant told detectives that the sex was consensual and that the woman had even told him she wanted to have sex with him.
In transcripts released to the court, Bryant said that the woman never cried and even gave him a kiss goodbye before she left his room. He also asked detectives several times during the interrogation whether the woman wanted money from him. Investigators later found blood on the woman’s underwear and blood on his shirt that suggested there was more to the story.
In court, Bryant’s attorney, Pamela Mackey, called the woman’s character into question by bringing up her sexual history and even her mental health.
Mackey also named the woman in court, effectively destroying any semblance of anonymity afforded to most victims of sexual assault. At one point during the pre-trial hearing held in October 2003, Mackey asked of the court, “Could it be that [the alleged victim’s] injuries were caused by having sex with three men in three days?” Bryant’s team further pointed out that the DNA evidence collected following her alleged rape was problematic because it suggested she had sex with someone else in the less than 15 hours after the rape and before the exam. (Prosecutors denied these claims).
Likely as a result of the very public trial, the woman decided not to testify in the criminal case, and prosecutors dismissed the sexual assault charges against Bryant.
Bryant then reportedly settled with the woman out of court rather than defend himself in a civil lawsuit. He also apologized to his wife, Vanessa Bryant, for what he characterized as an extramarital affair. The pair are still happily married, and Bryant thanked her at the Oscars Sunday night.
Bryant’s case has faded from the public consciousness, but his visible win at the Oscars led critics to remember its sordid details. Other individuals whose roles in Hollywood have been brought into question in light of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement – and who have all been accused of sexual harassment and assault – include Ryan Seacrest (who was on the red carpet on Sunday), Roman Polanski, Gary Oldman (who won in the Best Actor category for his role in Darkest Hour) and Casey Affleck. Affleck opted not to attend the awards ceremony, and his presenter duties for Best Actress were commandeered by Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster.