“How you doing? What’s going on? Enjoying retirement? Everything all right?”
They talked about LeBron James joining the Lakers, the correct pronunciation of “.GIF,” his new podcast for children, and his daughter’s basketball record—as well as her potential WNBA aspirations.
But at no point throughout their lengthy sit-down interview did they even come close to broaching the biggest Kobe news of the week: that the Laker great was disinvited from an animated film festival jury on account of his 2003 rape allegation.
Now, Kobe is undoubtedly one of the 10 best basketball players ever. But he’s also a man who’s been credibly accused of rape—we’re talking DNA and blood evidence, his defense team smearing his accuser, and even Kobe snitching on his teammate Shaq for no apparent reason whatsoever.
Bryant’s rape accuser didn’t show up in court, instead opting to accept a strange half-apology on his behalf: “No money has been paid to this woman. She has agreed that this statement will not be used against me in the civil case. 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.”
The woman’s civil suit against Bryant was settled out of court.
Bryant was jettisoned from the jury of the Animation Is Film Festival this past week after a Change.Org petition surfaced that sought to ban Kobe on account of his rape allegation. “This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women,” the petition read. “Keeping Kobe Bryant on the jury sets a precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve.”
Rather than address the controversy, Bryant issued the following statement, “I was honored to have been originally invited by Animation Is Film to serve on the 2018 Jury, and am disappointed to no longer serve in that capacity. This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry. I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation.”
Is it asking too much of Jimmy Kimmel, a comedian, to grill Kobe Bryant on his rape allegation? Perhaps. But in this day and age, when late-night hosts are some of the only ones who have access to these accused A-list men, and who seek to play the role of moral arbiter night after night vis-à-vis Trump and other so-called scumbags, it’s their duty to put up or shut up.
Jimmy, you seem like a decent guy. Do better.