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The Complicated Part of Kobe Bryant’s History

While some in the media and others have debated how to appropriately acknowledge Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault charge, it still remains a part of the basketball legend’s history. 

Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa in 2003 | Getty Images

While some in the media and others have debated in the last two days how to appropriately acknowledge Kobe Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault charge, it still remains a part of the basketball legend’s history. Bryant died Sunday in a helicopter crash, along with one of his daughters and seven others. 

As it was originally reported, then-24-year-old Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado in June 2003. (This Daily Beast article from 2016 lays out the full details from court documents of the case.) Bryant was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment months later, but charges were eventually dropped because the survivor was unwilling to testify in court.

In the year after she went public with the accusation and filed a police report, she was faced with brutal treatment from fans, prosecutors and the media, which can be a common experience for accusers of high-profile individuals. She faced criticism of her sexual history, questions about her mental state, and accusations of seeking money.

The criminal case was dropped with the condition that Bryant would issue a public apology to the accuser, which he did, saying: “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,” Bryant’s 2004 statement read. Bryant and his accuser reached a civil settlement in 2005, the terms of which were never made public.

There have been a lot of worthwhile pieces written about this already. As the author of this piece in The Outline said, “Two things can be true” at once. Writer Evette Dionne posted on Twitter: “Many feminists have the capacity [to] hold space for assault survivors and mourn someone who meant so much to so many Black children and families around the world.” This Esquire piece is worth a read as well.

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