As we sat down to dinner last night, my son said, “Look. Kobe died.”

I looked at the phone screen. My first thought was: he was so young and oh my gosh his daughter. My next thought was: the rape.

I have never stopped thinking about the night Kobe raped a 19-year-old woman while she was working at his hotel.

There wasn’t much public discourse about the rape back in 2003. A company could fire a woman for reporting rape. Date rape was a term to describe sort-of-ok sex. Anita Hill testified in Congress, and the men concluded she was asking for it. There was not a lot of discussion about rape because we didn’t have adequate language. Maybe that’s why the Wikipedia page quoting Kobe’s confession to rape is titled Kobe Bryant Sexual Assault Case.

I was raped at work but I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe the guy was just being mean and crazy so I didn’t tell anyone. Which is why the most shocking thing to me about Kobe’s rape was that the victim told people. She got a rape kit. I was impressed. She let the police take pictures. She described the events in Kobe’s hotel room so clearly that they played over and over in my head. This is rape, I told myself. This is what it looks like, I told myself.

Today the Washington Post fired a journalist for referencing the historical importance of Kobe’s rape case. The Chicago Tribune and Atlanta Journal-Constitution ignored that Kobe admitted the sex was not consensual. And LA Times wrote a fanboy fantasy retrial masquerading as an obituary.

This onslaught of terrible journalism made me wonder if my son knew the truth.

He said, “Yeah. I know. Everyone knows.”

“Do you care?”

“Mom. I get it. It’s really bad that he did it. But he’s one of the greatest athletes of all time. It’s not fair to write about rape now. The amount of good he did in the world is huge. He donated millions of dollars to charity.”

“So if someone donates a lot of money then we should only talk about that and not the rape?”

“Mom. This is not a hot take. You’re being a fucking asshole. Just don’t write this. Did you see that there are burn marks on his daughter where he was hugging her as they died?”

I have to pause because that makes me so sad. And because I am so lucky to have my son here, alive. Also, I ask myself why I am arguing with him when I could be hugging him?

I decide an argument is sort of like a hug. I say, “So there’s no #Metoo for good dads?”

My son says, “Kobe led a life that inspired millions of people,” and then my son walks out of the room.

So I have to tell this to you: The judge in Brock Turner’s case used the same argument; he said Brock’s life had been too important to be tarnished forever by rape. The woman Brock raped — who we know now is Chanel Millerwrote that her life is important too, and Brock tarnished it forever.

The result was that Brock Turner’s judge was recalled in a public election, and Miller’s book, Know My Name, was a bestseller. So the public has spoken. We believe that big success does not make rape go away — for either the rapist or the victim. A person is the accumulation of all of their actions.

So we need to remember that Kobe raped a 19-year-old.

The criminal prosecutor put together the case against Kobe. Key points were that the victim had marks on her neck that police deemed consistent with large hands strangling her and holding her down. And that Kobe talked with the police that evening while wearing a T-shirt that was splattered with blood later found to contain the woman’s DNA.

Kobe’s team launched an intense, multi-pronged defense. They called the woman “crazy, suicidal… and trying to get attention from her boyfriend.” The defense argued that Kobe has the right to present the woman’s medical records to the jury to show she is a liar. The defense team said the T-shirt was inadmissible in court. And also that the blood was from her period. Finally, the team threatened to countersue for saying the sex with Kobe wasn’t consensual.

Kobe’s defense lost each of those arguments. So, right before the case began, Kobe cut a deal with the victim: If she does not show up to testify Kobe will make a statement amounting to a public admission of rape. The woman filed a civil case which settled with Kobe paying the woman an unknown sum of money.

One of the reasons we should remember this case is it is a very public and clear example of why our criminal justice system does not work for sexual violence. There are huge personal risks and emotional risks for a victim to testify against her rapist, but research shows almost no emotional benefit to testifying. So the victims frequently recant which makes prosecutors reticent to press sexual violence charges. This is why very few sexual criminals go to prison.

In a civil trial, on the other hand, the victim can win financial compensation for damages if she is can get through intense preparation and emotional trauma of the trial. But the ability of powerful rapists to pay off much less powerful victims is an extreme loophole in sexual violence law. You can see this secondary system of justice play out very clearly in the Kobe Bryant rape case.

While we mourn the death of Kobe Bryant the great athlete, we need to remember that rape doesn’t disappear just because we hate having to think about it. Kobe’s victim hates thinking about the rape too, but she will live the rest of her life with the memory of Kobe raping her.

This is not 2003. It’s 2020 and we have clear, accurate language to talk about the broad category that is sexual assault. Rape is the specific, term that describes Kobe Bryant’s case. So the first step toward journalistic honesty is to edit that watered-down face-saving Wikipedia page to say Kobe Bryant’s Rape Case.

When the media rewrites Kobe’s story to make him innocent, the media rewrites women out of the story. Kobe doesn’t need to be innocent to be loved. And his victim doesn’t need to be perfect to be believed. Kobe’s death is an opportunity for journalists to report difficult truths to readers and for moms to have tough conversations with kids.

197 replies
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  1. EE
    EE says:

    I don’t disagree that story of the woman is not part of his story because it was and absolutely has an effect on his image and I’m sure work. What I’m confused about is —should we not celebrate him? Should we say we love his work on the court but he is a racist? Most people don’t go to funerals to hear ppl talk shit about them —fans of his are rightfully going to focus on the food and what they love. And consent, boundaries and situations are all things parent should their reach

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The problem I have is the media’s inability to deal with the fact that Kobe is loved and also flawed. The articles I linked to — where the journalists flat-out change the facts — that’s really bad. It’s bad for all of us. We are all loved and flawed, so we should be able to read about Kobe the same way.

      I have no patience for the way people are writing about him this week — going out of their way to rewrite history and deny the reality of Kobe’s victim. That is not necessary. We can handle the reality that Kobe did amazing, great stuff. And he also did some terrible stuff. We don’t need to focus on the terrible stuff this week. Fine.

      So I don’t know why so many news outlets are trying to rewrite the reality of the rape case. They don’t need to do that.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Diane
        Diane says:

        Media should
        not be bought: report and present all perspectives about why/how entitled celebs have options that no one else does…
        We have a perilous climb, in the face of all stable norms being exploded.
        It’s up to us to demand transparency, promote rehabilitation and forgiveness, and determination at least fair reparations.
        Traumatic memories cannot be erased with 30 pieces of silver…
        Our reverence for celebrity has been carefully constructed by media like Murdoch’s.
        All these important social change matters
        are fighting for survival.
        VOTE

        Reply
      • AC
        AC says:

        I’ve been a long fan of yours, Penelope, but I disagree whole-heartedly with this post. Nobody has forgotten about the rape or the assault case. It is just not the right time to bring it up so quickly after someone’s passing. Clearly, all fans and the general public know of his rape incident, but are also clearly seriously mourning the death of their hero/icon. Nobody is denying that he had flaws and broke the law; in fact, I am sure that Kobe’s death has brought back so many memories of famous incidents and events, including the rape.

        You assume that because journalists aren’t covering his raoe case in his obituaries and eulogies that they are upholding Kobe as someone who’s never raped. That is simply not true. There is timing for every expressed words, and events like this — a very unfortunate death of an icon to millions of people — can and should be allotted a few days of mourning for the pure reason of sadness resulting for a great loss.

        Again, nobody forgot his rape incident. It’s just that the immediacy and the sudden nature of his death take up people’s minds and hearts in much bigger prevalence.

        Reply
        • Frances
          Frances says:

          Are you really saying that rape is ok and he should be loved because he was a great athlete. The next time a rapist is caught I hope they have won all star titles and all of love’s accolades. Then they can go free too. Wow
          What a better place that would be. Rapists running free. No time and place for rapists to be celebrated.

          Reply
          • Katherine
            Katherine says:

            Running free? Celebrated? I guess you haven’t seen the latest trump rally. I guess you haven’t looked at your money recently. 53% of white female voters put a white rapist in the oval office with over 17 women with credible allegations of sexual assault and rape against him. Rape of enslaved Africans was a business model for building this nation. Honey, please.

          • Henrietta Komras
            Henrietta Komras says:

            Men rule the world and set the rules; violence against women happen every minute of every day; it is the way of the world because of a little value system called Patriarchy; Read “The War Against Women” by Marilyn French”
            Who care about Kobe: so the guy could dribble a ball??? big deal he did not cure cancer or show compassion like Ghandi. He could toss a ball and like most men felt entitled to violently take a woman and never really got that it was wrong.
            Says a lot that both women and women “worship” this. Worshipping the Golden Calf indeed

        • Really
          Really says:

          And when is the right time to ever bring up that a woman was raped? He did it and people just can handle that it’s being brought to light once again. Stop turning a rapist into a demigod just because they played some ball and donated money. Rape is still rape! Doesn’t matter if a beggar on the street did it or world richest philanthropist.

          Reply
      • charles stokes
        charles stokes says:

        You are literally insane. This chick was not a victim and her friends said as much. “Bragging about Kobe’s member at a party”. Bragging about the civil suit? Penelope stop lying. You are a liar!!!

        Reply
        • The Average Black Guy
          The Average Black Guy says:

          How quickly so many people forget history. This man was not convicted of any crime. The prosecution threw the case out, not because the accuser wouldn’t testify, but because the accuser wouldn’t testify because of everything that came out about her. If we’re going to talk about this, let’s talk about ALL of it! Not just some of it. I commend you for your comment!

          Reply
          • False
            False says:

            The prosecution wanted to continue with the trial. They had the jury selected already and a mountain of evidence that proved much of the statements by Kobe’s lawyers to be false. We never heard the prosecutor’s side because they did not want to subpoena the victim.

      • Tonya Fitzpatrick
        Tonya Fitzpatrick says:

        Thank you for having the courage and conviction to say what almost no one I know dares to bring up. Many strong women that I regarded as mentors have extolled praise on Kobe Bryant this week, one such “leader” required watching a video he made as the first step in a course outline. I excused myself and will not participate in the hero-worship of a rapist. I am sickened and appalled. The adulation is so pervasive to the point that I asked myself “am I the only one who is bothered by this?” A quick Google search served up your article. Thank you. As a woman, Human Rights advocate and prior Domestic Violence intern, I applaud you.

        Reply
      • Stefan J Marin-Afanador
        Stefan J Marin-Afanador says:

        So just cause people isn’t writing about a case of sexual assault that means that they are wrong? Then what about the others that died there? Very few writing about them and they just died. So having to mention the accusation for me makes no sense. For me is more of like… I know people will get mad and share, comment, etc. let me get my 5 minutes of glory! There is no need of keeping him link to that accusation. You can internally believe it was rape but that doesn’t make it real. We will never know now and pointing fingers to someone who can’t defend himself is dishonest. Those are my 2 cents! By the way love your son’s comments, 100% accurate!

        Reply
        • Kiki
          Kiki says:

          Your sentiments and comment is so triggering. Why is it so hard for people to hold men responsible for bad behavior? Kobe, in his forensic interview after the sexual encounter, stated that he “liked choking women during sex” and he “does it often” with another mistress named Michelle. Well this young girl was NOT his long-time mistress who knew what he liked in bed. He also stated that “he should have just cut her a check like Shaq does” to make it go away. He then asked the officer itnerviewing him if he could just pay her.

          Everything about his statement read to me as the sentiments of a man who had been raised to believe women were disposable and up for grabs at his pleasure. I 100% believe that he did not view it as a rape, because in his mind he was a god and what woman would not want an opportunity with a god? He admitted that the girl started crying while they were kissing, but apparently that turned him on.

          Will we still be celebrating Harvey Weinstein in 50 years? Bill Cosby? The Confederacy?

          The tragedy was in the lives of children who died young and innocent, not in the passing of a man who believed he could rape a woman and then tell her to shut up about it.

          Reply
          • Jean
            Jean says:

            This country has a very difficult time processing the cognitive dissonance created by the dangerous and abusive behavior engaged in by men who have been deemed successful — athletes, politicians, actors, doctors — the list goes on and on. If people don’t want to have that conversation when someone dies, I can understand that to an extent. But then you have to have that conversation earlier then, you have to engage in this dialogue when these things happen and we have to discuss what it takes for men such as these to right their wrongs. Simply making a statement in lieu of being criminally charged is not enough. Did Kobe address this issue of violence against women when he was alive? Did he use his fame and notoriety to help women who have been raped get treatment? Did he talk to men and boys who admired him about the challenges of handling that type of power, especially when it comes to sexual relationships with women?

            If not, then Kobe did himself a disservice by not choosing to have that conversation on his own terms, and leaving us to shift through the facts after his death and try to come to terms with his legacy.

            People who tend to dismiss rape are people who have never been raped or had anyone close to them raped. So they cannot possibly understand the violation of being raped and need to listen, not make snide comments that are cruel and unproductive.

            Rape and sexual assault is a huge issue that needs to be addressed. If we do not address it proactively, then it will come out in moments like this when we are forced to confront it.

      • Reggie
        Reggie says:

        So you’re just going to discard the fact that multiple witnesses including her friend heard her bragging at a party about how big Kobe was and how she got with him..oh the multiple male dna in her panties ..she had sex before and after being with Kobe ?? All this evidence you discount ??okay

        Reply
        • notevidence
          notevidence says:

          Everything you’ve said is hearsay and not evidence. His defense team purposely leaked details of the case and slandered the accuser to discredit her. The prosecutor stated they had proof that it was in fact false of having sex before and after the encounter but it never went to trial because of the settlement. The defense wanted the same controversial doctor who got OJ’s case thrown out to testify.
          The prosecutors had a good amount of evidence to prove he was guilty.

          Reply
          • The Average Black Guy
            The Average Black Guy says:

            That’s bullshit! It was known that her rape test came back with another many semen. It was deemed admissible by the judge. Also, there were five people that went on local the NBC channel that claimed that she was bragging about Kobe‘s anatomy. Lastly, four months before the rape she was hospitalized for her schizophrenia for which she was taking medication for. I know it’s hard to think of this Black man as being innocent, But not everything in the world will fit your narrative. Sometimes accusers lie. And sometimes people wish to demonize others, and never look into the fax. Everybody who does this discussed me!

          • The Black Guy
            The Black Guy says:

            Yup crazy how misinformed people are about this issue. Kobe was a rapist and the cover up was worse than the crime!

      • Desiree Monique Maurer
        Desiree Monique Maurer says:

        I totally agree. This is why I dont worship celebrities, because most of them are flawed just like us normal people. I applaud people who do good work that dont have the platform that celebrities and famous people have. Real people who get up everyday, that dont have a million, or a bllion dollars, and do good work helping others without any thought of reward, or applaud. I dont know if Kobe did all of this good work because he wanted to change his image from rapist to family man, and he four daughters, and according to reports, he admitted that he liked choking women during sex, but not his wife, and that he had a mistress that he did that with. Did he ever stop this practice? I highly doubt it. This type of sex is an addiction, plus it says other stuff about Kobe that are not really good. This woman was a 19 year old girl, obviously a confused, and not a mentally healthy young woman. Did he see that and take advantage of that? Kobe was definitely not a stupid man, and he was a worldly man as well. He had seen more than most in his 41 years, and he was offered just about anything a man could want. We all know he was given a pass at that time because he was one of the best basketball players in the world, and he was rich, influential, and knew many powerful people. He knew how to get away with stuff like this. He knew who to call. A regular, everyday black man would have went to jail for God knows how many years! But not men like Kobe, and he knew it. I am sorry that he died, and even sorrier that his young daughter died as well. Plus I feel sad for the other people who were on that helicopter, 2 other families were wiped out! This was a real tragedy! Why would they fly on a day that was so foggy that other helicopters did not fly that day?Was it so important to be at this other game even though the weather was dangerous to fly in? Was it because the pilot wanted to please Kobe Bryant? We will never know the answer to these questions because the pilot also died in this tragedy .I feel awful for the families that are grieving. But the fact remains that we didnt really know Kobe Bryant. I give credit to his wife who stuck by him, I am sure she knew how he was, she knew his habits, yet she loved him. And she kept their family together even though he was thoughtless, and fell victim to his fame and fortune. She lost much in this tragedy. It is Vanessa who should be held up and praised. She lived the Mamba mentality. She stayed true and never uttered a word to anybody. She raised her daughters and kept them grounded. Vanessa lost the most. She is the one I admire. Kobe did great things on and off the court, he was definitely celebrated for that, but at the end of the day he was just a man.

        Reply
    • Dude
      Dude says:

      Harvey Weinstein acted/directed/produced some great films. I doubt there is going to be much celebration of his work when he dies.

      It’s fine to think/say “Kobe was a great basketball player”, but the praises and celebrations of Kobe make me ill. Petitions to change the NBA logo to Kobe to honor him are insane.

      Someone whose legacy includes admitted rape and being a great baskeball player should be ‘noted’, and not ‘celebrated’.

      Reply
    • Vic
      Vic says:

      He never should have had the chance to be a role model or become rich neither to be in a position where he has moral and Civic obligations as he is perceived as a role model. Now we have a generation of people worshiping a rapist.

      Reply
    • A
      A says:

      Why not celebrate supreme court judges who have been accused of rape. CEOs of fortune 5s etc. If you’re going to go after rape victims, celebrities should not be above the law.

      Reply
  2. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    When I saw the news I was devastated. As a kid I spent nights watching Kobe fight to win in every basketball game, with my dad and sister, in our living room. His death felt like severance of another childhood memory of mine. And the fact that Gianna was next to him in the crash was just heartbreaking.

    It didn’t take long for me to start debating with myself whether I was defending a rapist with mourning as a facade. Someone on Facebook compared Kobe to Bill Cosby. I kept asking myself why I didn’t like him less even though he confessed to the rape. I knew the prosecutors’ dropping the charges did not vindicate him. But I also knew I had been using “innocent until proven guilty” as an excuse so I myself wouldn’t feel guilty.

    I don’t buy into the “He just died, can you talk about this some other time and let his fans grieve” rhetoric. But neither do I think he was another R. Kelly. I asked myself why I was grappling with this. I asked myself if I was being unfair to the rape victim by even having to grapple with this. I don’t have answers for any of these.

    Reply
    • Lauren
      Lauren says:

      Why must we compare one rapist to another rapist? As if one sexual assault outweighs another sexual assault in it’s depravity?
      All sexual assault is unacceptable.

      Reply
  3. Probably an unpopular opinion
    Probably an unpopular opinion says:

    I agree Bryant achieved many things members in society would deem great. While so many social media ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ saturate the platforms with praises to him. I’ve read horrible comments people have said to those who bring up his rape charges and other sexual assault allegations.
    I believe it is worth it to know both sides. I believe the difficult conversations are worth having. Raising awareness about the brokenness of our justice system and educating about sexual violence and consent is worth it. I think people need to get over the fact that their hero is not blameless. But I am also an ENTJ. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with why I can so easily choose to receive both truths of this news.

    Reply
    • Perry
      Perry says:

      There are a lot of ambiguities to the rape case and one should always look at both sides of a matter before jumping to conclusions, as you pointed out. The same should be done in the Kobe Bryant rape case, understanding the legal context where people, often famous people with lots of money, settle a dispute to avoid additional reputational and financial harm that dragging their names through the mud may bring

      Contrary to Ms. Trunk’s comment below, forensic evidence showing the accuser had sex with a man between the time of her encounter with Kobe Bryant and the time a rape kit was obtained *was* deemed admissible in court, quite properly so. The prosecutor tried to fight this evidence by saying she had sex before the encounter, but the forensic expert was very doubtful. If she had sex before the Kobe incident, there would be some DNA found on Kobe’s clothing, and none was found This was the final nail in the coffin of the case which led the prosecutors to push to drop the case – after *700* filed pleadings and *13 months* of prosecutorial work.

      *Both* Bryant and his accuser lied to police about the encounter.

      There was evidence of prosecutorial bias in the case. The T-shirts featured a symbol of a hanged man, drawn to resemble the stick figures typical of the game of Hangman. Hangmantees.com also reportedly gave the office two of the same T-shirts on October 9, the day of Bryant’s preliminary hearing — his first chance to try to raise questions about the evidence the prosecutors say establishes his guilt. The backs of some of the T-shirts mocked Bryant’s defense to the crime with which he is charged, stating “I’m not a rapist, I’m just a cheater.” (Others mocked his relationship with his wife.) The backs of the T-shirts also featured his jersey number and many of the letters from Bryant’s name — presented in filled-in blanks, Hangman-style. It was plain that the solution to the puzzle was “Kobe Bryant.”

      The defense team was accused of leaking the accuser’s name and address. In reality, the *prosecutor’s office* and the local county justice center mistakenly released that information, one of many missteps they made during the case.

      The accuser began negotiating a civil settlement before the outcome of the case – very unusual and a common sign the criminal case was weak and would not bolster a larger civil settlement, as is often the case when the defendant is found guilty.

      https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/the-kobe-bryant-case-why-prosecutors-should-dismiss-it.html
      https://www.cbsnews.com/news/big-win-for-kobe-defense/
      https://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commentary/evidence-of-prosecution-bias-in-the-kobe-bryant-and-michael-jackson-cases.html
      https://www.nydailynews.com/archives/news/kobe-accuser-mixups-admits-lies-claim-article-1.548757
      https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-2004-09-28-0409290017-story.html

      Reply
      • The average black guy
        The average black guy says:

        Thank you so much for your comment! It’s greatly appreciated! You have to really search for these articles, because Google wishes to sanitize this information for public consumption. It’s almost like they want to paint Kobe as a rapist, and wish to protect the accuser at all cost regardless of the truth! If we are really going to examine this case, we have to look at everything, not just trying to shame a deadman and protect a flawed accuser!

        Reply
  4. Bart
    Bart says:

    I’m sorry but I need to strongly disagree here.
    Before I do I want to make a few points crystal clear: Rape is a despicable act. Horrible. Personally, I think Rapists should be castrated and then locked up with the key thrown away. It is NEVER justified and rapists should be vilified.
    I am also not a Kobe fanboy.

    That said, the days of “Always believe her” are over. The Kobe case itself is a great example of this. Multimillionaire sports stars are magents for people trying to take advantage of them. There are dozens and dozens of stories of women making claims against sports stars only to find out these claims were completely fabricated. You can do the research yourself – it is all out there.
    This “rape” case was by no means clear cut. There were many conflicting issues. I am not victim blaming but the truth about the accuser is extremely relevant and readily available. The medical exam showed that she had had sex with another man AFTER she was with Kobe. Again, the days of “always believe her” are over.
    I hate to says this but sex can often get wild and messy. Yes, sex with a 6 foot 6 inch 220 pound man can cause bruising especially if they enjoyed rough play. Don’t stick your head in the sand.

    ** He also did not confess to rape. That is a pure lie on your part. Don’t make stuff up. Present it truthfully.**

    Was he an adulterer? Absolutely,. He clearly cheated on his young wife. A despicable act. But people make mistakes and it seems him and his wife were able to get through it.

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I debated removing your comment because it’s so fucking annoying.

      She had sex with another man before Kobe, not after. And this evidence was deemed not admissible in court. BECAUSE IT’S IRRELEVANT.

      Kobe never denied that he had sex with her. The question is just did he rape her or is it consensual.

      I linked to his confession. Which you should read. He said in public, on 20 billion outlets, that he realizes that she did not think the sex was consensual.

      This is enough to constitute rape. But there is something else.

      He said, in a deposition, that the reason his hand prints were imprinted, like bruises, all over her neck is because he thought she liked the feeling of being strangled. Really.

      The definition of rape is when one person does not consent to sex. And they cannot escape. These two sentences, which Kobe clearly said, constitute rape.

      This is not he said/she said. Kobe and his victim are in agreement about the statement he read. They are in agreement that they had sex and she did not think it was consensual. They are in agreement that he was strangling her.

      Kobe says the strangling was what she liked. That is the disagreement. You can decide for yourself if you think she liked feeling strangled to the point where his handprints were on her neck as bruises.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Bary
        Bary says:

        I appreciate your openness to a different view.
        1. I stand by what I said. He did not admit to rape and stating otherwise is not the truth. He read a prepared lawyer-ese statement that acknowledged different viewpoints on what had happened. He never admitted guilt of any kind.
        2. I believe in innocent until proven guilty.
        3. Many men and women enjoy rough sex. You may not but many others do. And yes, that includes being choked at the moment of climax. Its called erotic asphyxiation. Don’t judge the sexual desires of others.
        4. The medical report showed she had sex AFTER being with Kobe. I do not need to point out why this caused the accuser so much difficulty.
        5. Some women falsely accuse very rich sports stars of sexual abuse.
        6. He clearly cheated on his wife and – at least at that point – was no role model for anyone.

        We’ll never know the truth and feel free to label him as alleged rapist or accused of rape. Bu t he never admitted to rape and stating it as fact is not being truthful.

        Reply
        • Graham
          Graham says:

          You wrote that he did not admit to rape but acknowledged “different viewpoints on what had happened”. Nobody having consensual sex will have “different viewpoints on what had happened”. It’s a pathetic excuse and you are part of the problem when you attempt to propagate such wafer-thin excuse for a despicable act. Why are you so keen to defend him? It is precisely this sort of myopic male entitled bullshit that makes women despair. Have a bit of courage and acknowledge that people do bad things. It doesn’t mean we can’t acknowledge anything they achieve but we should be calling out the stuff which is unacceptable. Don’t be an apologist for sexual assault because it’s pathetic and cowardly.

          Reply
        • Laura
          Laura says:

          Bart/Bary, why don’t you start with getting your name right before sorting out the details of the night Kobe raped a 19 year old woman with that fine toothed comb of yours.

          Reply
        • Adam
          Adam says:

          Did she really like having some man she had just met — even a celebrity — inflict two 1 cm (nearly half-inch!) lacerations in her vagina as well as many 2 mm lacerations? Is that the kind of wild and messy sex you have with a woman you just met? With your t-shirt covered in blood? Come on. He raped her. There are enough facts out there to make that determination.

          Reply
      • P-Dawg
        P-Dawg says:

        Hi Penelope, did the victim have sex before or after the alleged rape? It all seems odd, but reading his prepared statement, it seems both parties wanted it over with so they could move on. I do feel for the victim, however I would like to think that the athlete learned from the experience and became a better person for his crime. I hope the victim received the professional services to help her deal with this brutal act of sexual assault. This is not OK and I hope there was enough in the settlement to provide for all the assistance she needed.

        Reply
      • Reggie Miller
        Reggie Miller says:

        Penelope, you know who’s fucking annoying is YOU – did you ever read the police interview/transcript Kobe had with the police, while he was still at that hotel? If you employ common sense, after reading it it would be clear it was HARDLY a rape. You must a boring feminist dork who thinks a guy hitting on a woman is some form of sexual assault – because no one ever hits on you. If you’re married, your husband is either ugly, gay or hates your guts.

        Reply
    • Fred G
      Fred G says:

      You’re terribly mistaken. It would be very rare for a 19 year old girl to have consensual sex with someone they met minutes earlier. All the evidence, includIng his immediate comments to the police & the media and the physical evidence point to his guilt.

      Reply
      • Teri
        Teri says:

        Some of you are delusional. It isn’t all that rare for a 19 yo to have consensual sex with someone they just met. Different strokes for different folks. Also, depending on how endowed someone is things can always end up bloody. Trust me, it happens. Regardless of what you think did or did not occur, you people need to stop generalizing sexual encounters for others based on your own banal lackluster performances.

        Reply
  5. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    YES to all of this, you absolutely nailed it Penelope. ‘Kobe doesn’t need to be innocent to be loved. And his victim doesn’t need to be perfect to be believed’ pretty much sums it up. I’ve forwarded this post on a dozen times already. Also appreciate that you included an explanation of the legal loopholes which make it so rare to see sexual assault cases go to trial despite it being one of the most common crimes. Its hard for most folk to understand why women don’t press charges (it’s like being assaulted all over again, and not being believed has driven women to suicide) and until this changes men will continue to behave how they like because at the moment they are largely unaccountable. Brilliantly written and absolutely true.

    Its messy when someone you love does something bad and you want to continue having them in your life. Disbelieving their crime makes it easier for people to live with themselves when they are friends with the perpetrator but it does no one any favours.

    Reply
  6. Amanda
    Amanda says:

    PS, I’m in the UK and all press coverage over here has unanimously been about what a legend he is – which he is. But until I read your post I had no idea this was a part of his history. Whitewashing peoples character when they die is a common habit but the truth is important.

    Reply
  7. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    If you’re an asshole, I’ll be one with you here. Thank you for saying this. I am really angry at the Washington Post for censoring a reporter’s tweet about this. It’s nice that at least some of us still don’t have to shut up and sit down for our corporate overlords and the powerful rich guy club that controls most of the world. And it’s history. Democracy does in darkness, but long live the patriarchy. No, thanks, assholes. I’m sorry that your kids got upset about the conversation but they’ll come around. Take heart.

    Reply
  8. Dana
    Dana says:

    I’m glad you wrote this. I wondered the same thing? Will people mention the rape.
    I’m sorry about the tragedy of his death, also,but the rape is still apart of the legacy and the whole (good and bad) of his life should be remembered as apart of his legacy.

    Reply
  9. Madelyn Lang
    Madelyn Lang says:

    Our penchant for deifying dead celebrities is always disturbing. Idk much about him but if all that’s said is true, then it all is true. The devout family man doesn’t erase the rape, nor does the rape erase the devout family man. He was someone who flew around in his own helicopter to avoid traffic and sanitized a sexual assault but he was also a poor guy dying with his precious daughter. It’s all true.

    Reply
    • MF
      MF says:

      He didn’t fly around in a helicopter to “avoid traffic.” You sound hella envious and completely unaware of the safety precautions a person of Kobe’s celebrity stature has to take. Especially when family is around him. This is the disparaging tone I get sick of white people making. You act like blacks people aren’t supposed to have anything. I’m sure you’re not upset at rich white men flying around. Ridiculous.

      Reply
      • SS
        SS says:

        MF – Kobe actually states in an interview that he uses a helicopter to avoid traffic so he can be with his family more often and it’s often painful to sit cramped up in a car for two hours. Just Google it. The statement by Madelyn didn’t have anything to do with race. No on cares that Kobe used a helicopter or that he had money.

        Reply
        • MF
          MF says:

          If no one cares he used a helicopter then why mention it? What’s the man supposed to say? That he can’t travel in regular transportation because fans are crazy? Kobe was being diplomatic. And if you live in LA you know that traffic is REAL. NOBODY wants to be stuck in that crap for hours on end and if they had an alternative they would surely take it. Bringing up him having a helicopter is akin to blaming him for his own death. There were other people in that helicopter too. We’re they just avoiding traffic? The insensitive comments on this thread is mind boggling. I do love how people are showing their true colors though.

          Reply
          • Madelyn
            Madelyn says:

            I was making one simple comment, which had no reference to race— that he, like every other human being, is neither perfect nor entirely evil. He had attained a high level of privilege, hence the helicopter, and his privilege may have excused him the consequences of a sexual assault; but that it is also true that he was probably had become a person of faith snd was certainly a devoted family man. Rather than either/or, he was both.

  10. Christine
    Christine says:

    OMG! This explains my feelings so accurately. I love what you wrote and am grateful for so many things In it….1 the permission to be with both the tragic loss AND the memory of his rape actions….2 that you modeled for your son conviction of truth despite his protests…3 that you put it into words – clear, concise and truthful – (impressive!) and 4 the courage to publish it amidst the almost exclusive “hero”worship going on. Thank you. Just feeling the relief of reading the whole truth not just the shiny parts is immense. Inspires me to have a voice in my own arena.

    Reply
  11. Amber
    Amber says:

    I only hope when Stephen Collins dies you write a such a passionate essay on his sexual assault of three minor girls for which he served no time or paid any settlements for. Lest we forget.

    Reply
  12. bobriensan
    bobriensan says:

    It was the first thing I thought about when I heard his name when he died, and any other time I heard his name when he was alive.

    Reply
  13. John
    John says:

    I believe the Kobe rape case should have been in news stories, but we live in an age of entertainment, not news.

    But I’m very surprised at how quickly you shot down a different viewpoint about the Kobe rape case. Not only did Penelope jump on him, but so did your readers. Thought this was a place for discourse, not abusing those with different views.

    Criticizing someone about typing their name wrong doesn’t belong here–grow up.

    Reply
    • no one important
      no one important says:

      P shot down the writer for good (and factual) reasons. He was behaving as a rape-apologist and that behavior must be called out when it happens or it will never stop.

      Yes, the name-calling was childish, but the rage his behavior invokes in many of us does cause a return to baser instincts.

      Related: Starting out with a pseudo-argument that “real” rapists should be castrated and locked up is meaningless since it is clear that he doesn’t believe rape is a real thing given his denial of what Mr Bryant did and admitted to doing.

      Reply
    • graham
      graham says:

      Who are you to say what belongs here? When someone defends sexual violence you’d probably better expect a backlash. Interesting that your point is really about defending a man who is defending another man. We may live in world which values entertainment above news but we don’t have to accept it.

      Reply
  14. Angela
    Angela says:

    Thank you for writing this… Has been on my mind since the moment I heard he died. Yes, it’s sad, and especially tragic that his daughter died with him. Yes, he was a great player and has done good things… Doesn’t take away from the fact that he has done at least one very bad thing as well and I think it’s a disservice to gloss over it.

    Reply
  15. harris497
    harris497 says:

    Penny,

    When you make people think, you get mixed reactions. Many of those will be acerbic because you removed the validity of the simplicity creating paradigms we use and cause us to see the world as imperfect, multifaceted, and messy. Thanks for being a contrarian but also, thanks for doing so tastefully.
    my2centsworth…

    Peace,
    D

    Reply
  16. Maura K.
    Maura K. says:

    Thank you Penelope for writing the truth with such balance and restraint. My impulse would be to rip him to shreds. When I heard of his death (snd I am not an NBA fan so I never saw him play) but the first thought that ran through my head was: “that basketball player who raped someone?” Then I assumed I must just not have been reMembering the right guy because I thought a guy named Kobi Bryant RAPED someone- VIOLENTLY- but no one’s mentioning that so I must be thinking of the wrong guy. Now that I’m reading this and seeing details like: “her neck had large hand prints of strangulation” I’m further blown away that people are saying things- here- in these comments like: well should we really mention someone’s mistakes at their funeral?”
    YEAH- when the mistake was they almost MURDERED a woman to gratify their lustful, misogynistic perverted evil desires- yeah, we should totally remember that. I’m certainly glad God does. There will be perfect justice in his final judgment. I’m happy knowing that at least. But people living here and now wake up. Bring good at sinking baskets does nothing to reverse that huge evil act. Nothing.

    Reply
  17. Gail Knowles
    Gail Knowles says:

    I totally agree with you. I’ve felt that way since I heard about his death. Just to clarify, the reporter was suspended, not fired, and once she started receiving threats and was fixed? WP jumped in to help and keep her safe, and tons of other journalists jumped in. I hope she’s OK.

    Reply
  18. Nichole C.
    Nichole C. says:

    The fact that Kobe is being hero worshiped after his death says a lot about our cultures thoughts about rape. First of all, his athletic achievements matter a lot more than the impact he had on his rape victim. Why is she not mentioned in the articles being written about Kobe? Why is she not being interviewed by all the media outlets, and asked her response to his death? Basically because nobody cares. What they care about was that he was able to make a lot of baskets. A woman got fired from her journalism job because she brought up his rape case? That’s sad. Obviously the truth is still not ok.

    Reply
  19. Susan
    Susan says:

    I could not agree more. Also, Washington Post writer not only lost her job, she has received a ton death threats and men saying she needs to get raped. Nice?

    Reply
  20. Murray
    Murray says:

    This is a very thoughtful and important post, which I plan to share. Thank you. I disagree about just one point. I believe that there was a lot of public discussion about the case in 2003. I remember talking about it with my wife and with friends. And it definitely received a lot of coverage in the press.

    Reply
  21. Celeste
    Celeste says:

    Penelope this is one of your best blog posts ever. Just wanted to jump on and say thank you. It remains saddening that we can’t allow someone to be two things at once and so many feel the need to negate his victim and anyone who mentions her or his crime.

    Reply
  22. Harry Betts
    Harry Betts says:

    ‘he was so young ‘ like he was Harry Potter or something – let’s cut to the chase: he was a uneducated, predator, central park style thug, who just happened to be able to shoot a basketball. How is he different than Cosby (probably innocent but tried to buy a network), or OJ. America has weird heroes and weird villains, both domestically and globally.

    Reply
    • Nicole
      Nicole says:

      Careful your racist slip is showing. You should check yourself before you write untruths. Uneducated? Kobe Bryant spoke four languages, authored and published children’s books, won an Oscar for an animated poem of his, learned piano by ear and proved himself to be greater man, husband and father beyond this incident and beyond the game of basketball.

      He openly admitted to adultery but never rape. And like many have said, she had sex after the encounter. If someone is adamant about being sexually assaulted then why would they show up to an exam wearing underwear with semen and hair on them for another man that isn’t the man she is accusing. The fact is, no sexually assaulted woman would.

      Reply
      • Katherine
        Katherine says:

        Nicole, Thank you. White folk still want to characterize Black men as brutes. The reason these articles are surfacing at this point is because they have utterly failed to downgrade Kobe’s image with their insensitive white supremacist pettiness. Every time he did something extraordinary, white people, white women especially wanted to remind us that he was once accused of rape. The notion that a Black athlete could also be a humanitarian, a good father, and contributor to his community, disturbs white folks’ sense of self, their sense of security and superiority. So they must repeat it over and over, even though the “victim” they purport to be protecting has plainly moved on with her life.

        Reply
        • MF
          MF says:

          Thank you both Katherine and Nicole. These articles demanding that a settled court case be the last word on Kobe’s life reek of racism and white inferiority complex. It has truly shown the true colors of white women who must really really hate black people.

          Reply
  23. John Wilder
    John Wilder says:

    As a conservative man politically, I agree with your column completely. Ask your son if he would feel the same if Kobe had raped u. The privileged when they don’t get what they want, they tend to just take it. There is NO excuse for a man to rape a woman. There used 2 be the death penalty for rape. If we started executing rapists we would have a whole lot less rape.

    Reply
    • harris497
      harris497 says:

      John,
      I was with you up to the death penalty part. It has not worked for murder and it won’t for this. Look at the countries that do not have the death penalty, they have lower murder rates. Guidance begins at the top…

      Reply
    • MF
      MF says:

      Wow. So you want a son to envision his mother being raped so she can make a point? And for you to justify killing him? Wow. You want him lynched. How about we start with trump a known rapist?

      Reply
  24. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    It is entirely human nature to put people on a pedestal when they die. Especially in a tragic way. Regardless of past transgressions.

    Reply
  25. DJ
    DJ says:

    I lived in Colorado when this happened. One strange fact I remember is that the budget for the Eagle County DA’s office was less than Kobe’s annual salary. The commentary in the media was that he had the money to fight the case and the DA did not have resources to match him. Justice is for poor people.

    Reply
  26. Lew
    Lew says:

    So I googled this topic and found your post. As I read it, it’s almost word for word the discussion I just had with my 16 year old daughter. I have a small YT channel and was going to make a video about this exact topic. She told me not to, it was too close, and what would people think about us if I did? Then I read your post. You’re more courageous than I. You’ve said what many of us feel. Conflicted. Extremely conflicted. He is almost being deified in the public, press, Grammy’s. And the article about the WaPost I just saw 10 minutes before I read your piece…and was shocked. Or maybe I wasn’t shocked, because it’s precisely what I fear. What will people say about me, my family, my little channel? Will I completely ruin any chance I have of growing myself online? Because how I feel and what I want to say…which is while he was an insanely talented man, he also had a past. A horrible past. I watched it like many people did. And it has always changed my perspective of what I thought of him as a man/husband. Not as an athlete. But today, people are calling him an inspiration, great man, husband, etc. People are imperfect. As an example, Ray Rice was a champion, husband, city loved him. Until video surfaced of him, his wife, and an elevator. He has never recovered. But Kobe, on the other hand, well. Not sure I understand it. I have 3 daughters. And I fear what happened to the 19 year old could happen to any of them. Really fear it. I honestly give you massive praise for having the guts to write this and post it. Well done.

    Reply
  27. Grace
    Grace says:

    I think this is why we need writers like you. There’s usually more to the story and you don’t get a paycheque for writing the story that some rich people want to hear. Thanks for this.

    Reply
  28. Ermias
    Ermias says:

    You’re an evil woman. The case was dismissed and you should be ashamed of yourself for spreading vicious lies. Let the man Rest In Peace. Be careful what you say about others, the Sins of the parents will plague the future generations.

    Shame on you!

    Reply
  29. Niki
    Niki says:

    Incredible writing & such an important message: flawed & loved we all are. On a less important but intriguing note, I am so confused by your son’s comments about “…burn marks on his daughter where he was hugging her as they died.” What did he see that would lead him to this conclusion?

    Reply
  30. Mimsey Tove
    Mimsey Tove says:

    ret·i·cent
    /ˈredəsənt/
    Learn to pronounce
    adjective
    adjective: reticent
    not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily.
    “she was extremely reticent about her personal affairs”

    “If a person is reluctant, he’s unwilling to DO something; if reticent, he’s unwilling TO SPEAK. Reticent refers to a subset of the meaning of reluctant. Compare “He’s reluctant to talk about that issue” with “He’s reticent on that issue”. “

    Reply
  31. Adenike
    Adenike says:

    So, I want to first say that I respect you for writing about something that is clearly going to be highly emotional and controversial. I can respect anyone who stands up for what they believe.
    Having said that, no one on this post can say definitively what happened in that room.
    If he raped her, it was wrong, hands down.
    But let’s just be clear that there is a POSSIBILITY that it was not rape.
    Black men have been accused of rape, murder, jay-walking – anything that you can think of, over the course of the last couple hundred years in America, with clear evidence that it never happened and they still lost there lives or freedom. There is a possibility that what he admitted to was a statement that his lawyers drew up and he agreed to because he wanted to live. We can agree to disagree. My thoughts are not on him during this time but on his family because you are right, he was flawed, as we all are, but they lost their loved one and that needs to be the focus right now.

    Reply
    • MF
      MF says:

      Thank you for this. The white woman who lied on emmet till us still living her life freely. I noticed also that this outcry doesn’t happen when it’s black women. I will search to see if Penelope has any articles on R Kelly. But all his victims were black girls so I highly doubt I’ll find one but willing to be surprised.

      Reply
  32. Andy
    Andy says:

    The link you provided for Bryant’s confession is a Wikipedia article stating that he admitted no guilt. Do you have a source?

    Reply
    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      He says he realizes that the woman he had sex with did not think the sex was consensual. Look up the definition of rape.

      I think it might be news to you that just because a rapist thinks the victim likes it doesn’t mean it’s not rape.

      Penelope

      Reply
      • Katherine
        Katherine says:

        Actually, in his apology, he said that after a year of discovery and after listening to her deposition testimony, he realized that she did not view the encounter as consensual, though he believed it to be. That is not a confession to rape. Your headline is misleading at best, I personally see it as a lie.

        Reply
      • Katherine
        Katherine says:

        Realizing a year later that the woman did not view the encounter as consensual is NOT a confession to rape. Maybe YOU need to look up the definition of rape, or better yet, have a lawyer explain it to you. So I will. In order for a person to be guilty of any crime, he must have “criminal intent.” A person does not develop criminal intent a year after the purported crime. It must be present at the time the alleged crime is committed. You are literally making up a “confession” based on your own ignorance on the back of a woman you don’t know and a man who’s family, friends and fans are in mourning. Does that make you feel better?

        Reply
  33. Debbie
    Debbie says:

    This is one of your most cogent pieces of writing. Remembering someone whether in an obituary or bio article should include truth and context which I believe you did well. It should be submitted to one of those publications as an opinion piece. Two parts I admire in particular included the part that makes it clear that anyone- even someone perceived as ‘good”- can be flawed. For our children that is an important lesson. I like that you stood up for the reporter. The company should be ashamed they didn’t support that reporter. Thank you for your thoughts and writing.

    Reply
  34. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    If you are descended from enslaved Africans in America, you are a sexual assault survivor. So many words ignore the elephant in the room… A white woman accuses a Black man of rape… so complicates the “believe women” thing. That is not to say that Black men do not commit sexual assault, nor to say that Black men who gain money, power, fame, do not emulate their white oppressors, because they do. It is simply to say that elephant is in my room. Still. And maybe white women need to sit this one out because it seems like just piling on. It seems like colonizing our pain, like flexing white supremacist muscle to make sure we cannot own our own grief. We cannot grieve in peace because, alas, a white woman’s tears are superior to ours. I cannot simply be sad because a tragic accident took the life of a Dad and his teen daughter, her teammates and parents on their way to her basketball game, because white women need to center their pain, by inhabiting the imagined pain of a white woman they don’t even know, whose anonymity, thankfully, is protected. Forgive me if I feel some type of way about it, if I believe white women with a grain of Carolyn Donham salt, especially since 53% of white women voters put a white rapist in the oval office, while famous liberal white women stan for Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Yet white women like Somnez and Substack and this author here, just couldn’t let us have a few days to grieve, to hurt. They couldn’t let the devastated wife, who lost a husband and child, daughters who lost Dad and sister, have a moment. After all, that’s just Black women’s pain and we might forget that white women’s pain is supreme. If you think raising this is not the result of white supremacy, of white tears, of white folk, especially white women, never being able to meet a Black emotion they did not colonize, gentrify and displace, imagine if the victim had been a Black girl. But colonists do not consider those whom they’ve displaced, only what they can own and exploit. By the way, if someone has hurt me deeply, they can apologize and then, they can do better. It is all that I can ask after the fact. Kobe was doing better when he died.

    Reply
    • Lew
      Lew says:

      Katherine, points well taken. I had to ask myself would I feel the same way if the women had not been white. It’s a legit question. And I don’t have an answer.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts…more open and honest discussion amongst people is always a good thing.

      Reply
    • Cice
      Cice says:

      Thank you, Katherine.

      You are right on nearly each account~ and you have given me the nudge for civility and kindness in the wake of a tragedy.

      People are mourning, and at this time, I will honor that as much as I was memorializing the rape most of
      us assume we *know.*

      Reply
    • MF
      MF says:

      Thank you Katherine for your astute comment. It’s all about white women’s tears and their usual act of centering themselves. They have to keep bringing it up and someone on this thread suggested Kobe should have been killed via the death penalty. Just like they wanted for the boys accused of raping the white woman in Central Park. I notice that Penelope has not replied to you. She’s using Kobe’s death to express her rage about her own trauma. It’s not cool.

      Reply
  35. Tyler
    Tyler says:

    Well ok Penelope but whats to stop someone from saying they didn’t consent to sex after the fact? I’m not saying Kobes accuser lied or not. Do you acknowledge thats even possible? Because if not your kind of endorsing lynching. Do you even acknowledge the race issue here is a thing?

    Reply
  36. Buchanan
    Buchanan says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. I got into so many arguments over this subject that I had to turn off my phone for 24 hours. I went to see Bombshell while it was off.

    Victims of sexual assault (or anyone else) should never have to turn on their television or open their phone and see a rapist being celebrated, no matter what good things he tried to do try and ease his conscience.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    Reply
    • John
      John says:

      You got it wrong and so has this writer. The girl went in the hotel room to make put with and then screw Kobe. She had seemen four different makes in her underwear. The girl was nasty as all get out. She also found out she was pregnant the day before the case was dropped. This girl flirted and then set Kobe up for money…to buy a?Koala bear. Do your own research. Kobe was 24 and she 19. Nasty disgusting young woman helped Kobe realize that cheating on his wife, especially with scummy nasty girls is not health nor safe. Truth Hurts…doesnt it?

      Reply
  37. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    The problem here is you misrepresented the facts to get attention. He never confessed to rape…and you opened your article with that. He confessed to cheating on his wife. Don’t rewrite history to make a contrarian point.

    Reply
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