Kobe Bryant Removed From Film Festival Jury Over 2003 Rape Allegation
Kobe Bryant is reaping the negative effects of his 2003 rape allegation. Earlier this year, the retired basketball player received recognition from the Academy for his animated short film “Dear Basketball,” and was also selected to join the jury for the Animation Is Film Festival, but following an online petition, the star player has been removed from the jury. Eric Beckman, the CEO of GKIDS, the animation distributor who puts on the festival, released a statement in regards to the removal.
After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury. We are a young organization and it is important to keep our collective energies focused on the films, the participating filmmakers, and our festival attendees.
In 2003, Bryant was arrested and charged for allegedly sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman in Eagle, Colorado at a hotel he was staying at. Charges were later dropped after the woman who made the original claim refused to testify. According to reports, last week, a petition was launched on Change.org, demanding festival organizers to withdraw Bryant. The petition outlined it’s argument,
This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women. 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.
Bryant also released a statement about his withdrawal,
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.
Following the charges being dropped, Bryant also released a public apology to the woman.