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Vanessa Bryant took to Instagram on Saturday to defend her late husband against rape allegations.
The 38-year-old mother shared a screenshot of an old tweet from Evan Rachel Wood, who expressed her condolences to Kobe Bryant’s family just hours after he and his daughter, Gianna, were killed in a helicopter crash. Though the actress acknowledged Kobe Bryant as a “sports hero,” she also described him as a “rapist”—an apparent reference to his 2003 sexual assault case that was ultimately dismissed.
“What has happened was tragic. I am heartbroken for Kobe’s family,” Wood wrote in the Jan. 26, 2020 tweet. “He was a sports hero. He was also a rapist. And all of these truths can exist simultaneously.”
Wood received widespread backlash over the post and deleted it shortly after. She went on to share another message that addressed the tragedy without any mention of the rape case.
“What has happened is tragic. Beloveds, this was not a condemnation or a celebration,” the subsequent tweet read. “It was a reminder that everyone will have different feelings and there is room for us all to grieve together instead of fighting. Everyone has lost. Everyone will be triggered, so please show kindness and respect to all.”
Vanessa Bryant told her followers it wasn’t until recently that she became aware of Wood’s “rapist” tweet. She also sent a strongly worded message to the Westworld actress, telling her how dangerous these types of accusations can be.
“Your false, insensitive, defamatory and slanderous tweet on 1/26/20 is vile and disturbing to say the least,” she wrote. “Behavior like this is part of the reason why innocent black men go to jail for crimes they didn’t commit. An accusation doesn’t make someone guilty. You don’t know the facts of the case.”
Producer Abigail Disney made a similar claim against Kobe Bryant just several days after his death.
“I haven’t said anything about Kobe so far because I felt some time needed to pass before weighing in. But yes, it’s time for the sledgehammer to come out. The man was a rapist. Deal with it.”
Vanessa Bryant responded to Disney’s tweet with a nearly identical message to the one she sent Wood.
Kobe Bryant was charged with sexual assault in 2003 when a then-19-year-old woman claimed he had raped her in a Colorado hotel room in July of that year. Bryant, who was 24 at the time, admitted he had a sexual encounter with the woman, but maintained it was consensual. The criminal case was dismissed in 2004 after the accuser refused to testify.
“… I do not question the motives of this young woman. No money has been paid to this woman,” Kobe Bryant said in a statement on the day the case was dismissed. “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.”
In August 2004, the accuser filed a civil suit against Kobe Bryant in connection to the alleged 2003 incident. The parties settled out of court in 2005.
Earlier this week, Vanessa Bryant criticized Meek Mill for lyrics that referenced the 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, daughter, and seven others.
“Yeah, and if I ever lack, I’m goin’ out with my chopper, it be another Kobe,” Meek rapped in an unreleased track with Lil Baby.
Vanessa Bryant called the line “extremely insensitive and disrespectful.”
“I am not familiar with any of your music, but I believe you can do better that this,” she wrote on Instagram. “If you are a fan, fine, there’s a better way to show your admiration for my husband. This lacks respect and tact.”