On Your Mark: Acting out of bounds

Mourners overlook accusations

Adele Bonomi, Sports Editor

Legends may never die but, in this case, interest in a sexual assault lawsuit certainly did.

When Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers star player and National Basketball Association icon, died on Jan. 26 in a helicopter crash with eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, fans paid tribute to mourn his death by gathering in the streets of Los Angeles and by reposting images of him and his daughter on social media.

While many fans celebrated Bryants accomplishments, including his five NBA championships, 18 All-Star games and two Olympic gold medals, there was little mention of his trial for sexual assault in 2003. A 19-year-old hotel employee accused Bryant of raping her in his hotel room, but Bryant told the police that they had consensual sex. Throughout the trial, Bryant’s wife Vanessa stood by his side.

The case was dropped because the woman refused to testify. Bryant posted a long statement apologizing to the woman, acknowledging that his perspective differed from hers. 

The alleged rape needs to be included in the story of Bryant’s life for fans to understand that no one, not even NBA icons are perfect. 

Since retiring from the NBA, Bryant focused on supporting women’s athletics, frequently highlighting the Women’s National Basketball Association and recording voice overs for the NCAA women’s basketball team. 

Powerful men are rarely held accountable for their misdeeds. We focus on their accomplishments and not on their mistakes.

Yet, Bryant’s actions over the next 16 years — apologizing and taking time to acknowledge women in sports, including supporting his daughter Gianna Bryant’s basketball team, and taking pride in being a #girldad — demonstrates that one’s past does not always define who someone is now. 

As we remember Bryant, we need to look beyond losing an icon and instead recognize that he was a flawed man who earned redemption.