As Oscar nominations flooded timelines Tuesday morning, people reacted with the usual mixture of praise and disappointment. Award shows are never perfect, as the Golden Globes reminded us earlier this month.
While the Oscars may have attempted to rid themselves of controversy by giving Get Out its proper recognition and including women (gasp!) in some of their more prestigious categories, the Academy is still getting flack for one nomination in particular. Kobe Bryant is included in the nominations for Best Animated Short Film for his movie Dear Basketball. The film is narrated by Bryant, and the former Lakers player celebrated the nomination on Twitter.
But some were quick to point out that like many men in Hollywood, Bryant has a history of alleged sexual violence. In 2003, Kobe was formally charged with rape. The player claimed the sex between him and a 19-year-old hotel staffer in Colorado was consensual, but according to TMZ, he also asked police if he could pay her to make the situation go away.
Kobe was never prosecuted because his victim dropped the case after receiving a flurry of hate mail and death threats. Instead, she filed a civil lawsuit, and Kobe settled the case quietly. It’s unclear if she was paid off, but Kobe claimed publicly that he didn’t give her any money.
"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,” Kobe said in a letter of apology at the time. “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."
If time is indeed up, then the Academy should look at this kind of history of sexual violence carefully. The award show noticeably left out James Franco, but dealing with present-day accusations that are in the current media cycle shouldn’t mean forgetting about the past. Twitter, of course, doesn’t forget, and a lot of people had something to say about the double standards of the nomination.
In light of this rape case's resurfacing, a short film celebrating Kobe’s legacy as one of the best basketball players of all time feels at odds with the #MeToo movement Hollywood is attempting to embrace. If you’re interested in watching the short film, here you go: