Gayle King, the CBS This Morning host is facing backlash from many after raising the issue of the late Kobe Bryant’s rape case dating back to 17 years ago.
The Washington Post suspended Felicia Sonmez, a national politics reporter, for tweeting about the rape case last month, but was forced to reinstate her a day later.
While the timing of raising the issue may not have been ideal, considering that Bryant and his daughter together with seven others were recently killed in a helicopter accident, should such issues be just forgotten?
Back in 2003, a 19-year-old woman accused Bryant of raping her in a hotel room while she was working as a front desk clerk at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Rocky Mountains town of Edwards in Colorado. Prosecutors ended up dropping the case against the player in 2004 after the woman declined to testify.
Anyone other than someone with insane sports skills would have had a hard time reinventing themselves after being leveled with such accusations.
In the wake of the rape case, Bryant lost endorsement campaigns with McDonald’s and Nutella, and was also discarded by Nike. He resumed his status as lucrative pitchman in July 2005, when Nike began using photos of the athlete for the first time since the assault allegation.
Talking ill about the dead is frowned upon but that does not mean that it should not be spoken about at all.
The issue here is bigger than Bryant, who had initially denied the claim, but later settled with the woman saying he understood “how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter”.
Just because someone is a sports phenom, it should not give the person the license to behave as he wants no matter how immoral or illegal it was.
Australian Margaret Court has a record 24 women’s singles Grand Slam title to her name. But since hanging up the racquet, she has courted controversy with her racist and homophobic views. Yet she has her name on one of the major arenas at the Melbourne Park.
She was honoured during this year’s Open to celebrate the 50th anniversary of her Grand Slam achievement. Tennis Australia had earlier also said that the honour given to Court was purely on the merit of her achievements and not for her stance against the LBGTIQ community. Yet they chose to chastise Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe for calling out the former’s bigotry during another event at the Australian Open.
French rugby league club Catalans Dragons signed controversial former Australian rugby star Israel Folau recently, triggering widespread condemnation for hiring a player banned at home for highly publicised homophobic views.
UFC superstar Connor McGregor is under two separate investigations for sexual assaults and just earned millions in his recent non-title welterweight bout against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone that lasted less than a minute.
He is one of the most popular fighters in the octagon and the allegations has hardly put a dent on his ever growing number of ardent followers. He has over 50 million followers on his social media accounts, with 2.2 million new followers in January alone.
‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was convicted of rape and served three years in prison but still found his way back to top level boxing and in turn made millions from his bouts including against the then champion Evander Holyfield.
Former cricketer Imran Khan may have been known for his playboy lifestyle and even caught in a ball tampering scandal during his younger days, but today he is the prime minister of Pakistan. No doubt that his meteoric rise was mainly due to his cricket playing prowess.
While lesser athletes have their sporting careers cut short, the superstars continue unblemished. Money, popularity and friends in higher places all come in handy to erase any stain.
Being immensely talented on the arena should not be seen as an armour for failings and indiscretions in personal life, especially if it was criminal.
Snoop Dog, is among the high profile admirer of Bryant, who has gone after King for bringing up the late basketball legend’s stained past.
In an interview following his outburst against King, the rapper claimed that the younger generation of basketball players all look up to Bryant and that the latter showed him ways on how to be a better person, a better father and a better man.
While many, including the sports media prefer to gloss over the issue by citing sporting credentials, the Daily Beast in their in-depth investigative report on the rape case raises plenty of question on the matter.
Many have also forgotten that Bryant was fined to a tune of USD100,000 for calling an NBA ref a slur for homosexuals.
Disney heiress Abigail Disney summed it up on behalf of sexual victims when she bared her mind in a series of tweets.
She offered praise for Bryant amid her discussion of the rape allegations, noting that a person can do both good and bad things in their lifetime. “I mourn Kobe too. He went on to be a man who seemed genuinely to want to do good. The fact that he raped someone does not change any of these other facts,” she tweeted.
Disney said Bryant could be mourned but said people should not “deify him because he was not a god.”
Whether you are a sexual predator, a wife abuser, a doper, a cheater, a racist, a bigot, a homophobe or a match fixer, you cannot use sports as a shield.
Just as we celebrate sporting success, we should also censure the misdeeds.