A five-time NBA champion is now also an Academy Award winner. On Sunday night, Kobe Bryant won an Oscar for Best Animated Short for his film, Dear Basketball. Along with Bryant, who wrote the story, the award also went to animator Glen Keane. But even though this is a major moment for Bryant, viewers of the award show aren't forgetting about his past at a time like this. Especially amid the conversation about sexual harassment and abuse in Hollywood, the previous rape allegation against Bryant is on some viewers' minds. (Bryant denied at the time that the claim that the encounter was non-consensual.)
In 2003, the former Lakers player was arrested after being accused of rape by a hotel employee, who claimed Bryant assaulted her in Colorado, as The Wrap reports. Bryant was charged with a felony account of sexual assault. He said at the time, according to CNN, "I didn't force her to do anything against her will. I'm innocent. You know. I sit here in front of you guys furious at myself. Disgusted at myself for making a mistake of adultery."
The Wrap reports that the criminal charges were later dropped and a civil case was settled outside of court in 2005. In court, Bryant's lawyer read a statement on his behalf that said, "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." According to the Los Angeles Times, Bryant and the accuser said in a statement at the time that the suit had "been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties."
But, while this case was settled 15 years ago, in a year when allegations against powerful men are at the forefront and those who have allegations against them are called out when they receive accolades like Academy Award nominations — and wins — Bryant's history has not gone unnoticed. And now that he has actually won an Oscar, Twitter users are speaking out.
Some Viewers Called Out The Conflicting Messages
There were strong messages made in terms of the Time's Up movement during the broadcast, and Bryant's win put things in a different perspective.
Time's Not Up For Him
Writer Roxane Gay kept her message short and simple.
This Twitter user just wanted to make sure fellow viewers were aware.
Casey Affleck, who won the award for Best Actor last year, decided to sit out this year's award show. After winning his Oscar, he faced much backlash because he had been accused of sexual misconduct. (Affleck has denied the allegations against him.)
Not Everyone Remembered Right Away
It did happen in 2003. If it had happened in the current climate, it might not have been as forgettable.
Oscar Voters Chose Him
Bryant's film had to get the votes in order to win, which raises the question about whether his past was taken into consideration by voters.
The MJ Comparison
There were a lot of people comparing Bryant and Michael Jordan after the Oscar win, but this tweet compares them in a completely different way.
A Note About Ruined Careers
When allegations are made against someone, the idea that allegations only could end up ruining someone's career is often brought up. In this case, it's clear that an allegation alone doesn't make that happen.
The film Bryant won for, Dear Basketball, was based on the piece he wrote for The Players Tribune about his retirement. The poem is about his love for basketball and how he'll always have that love, even when he's no longer playing. Keane, who is known for his work on classic films like Pocahontas and The Little Mermaid, made the poem into the six-minute animated film.
Bryant is now a part of Oscars history, but it's clear now that whenever this award is brought up, thoughts of his past case will be, as well.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.