At the height of the #MeToo movement, Hollywood still gave Kobe Bryant an Oscar despite a 2003 rape allegation against the former NBA star. Now, the tables seemed to have turned, with HuffPo reporting that the retired athlete has been barred from serving on the Animation Is Film Festival jury over protests.
"Remove Sexual Predator Kobe Bryant from ‘Animation Is Film’ Festival Jury," demanded the Change.org petition, which called on the festival to honor its commitment to women filmmakers in the #MeToo era.
"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," it reads.
Only a few hundred people signed the petition, but the controversy and rage was enough to get Bryant removed. Event producer Eric Beckman, CEO of GKIDS, said the organization did not want the focus to be taken off the films.
"After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury," said Beckman. "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."
Bryant has taken the opportunity to put out a message about diversity in film.
"This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry," he said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation."
The rape charges against Bryant were dropped after his accuser refused to testify in court about an incident in a Colorado hotel room in 2003. Bryant has always maintained the sex was consensual and issued a public apology to the woman. He later settled a civil suit with her for an undisclosed amount.
"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," Bryant said 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."
Bryant was never found guilty of being a "sexual criminal" as the petition suggested. Full transcript:
We, women and allies of the animation community demand that accused rapist and sexual predator Kobe Bryant be removed from the Jury of Animation is Film Festival. In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant’s actions of sexual assault. We demand that GKIDS, Variety, & Annecy revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity. On its website "Animation Is Film" specifically states one of their primary purposes is to champion and support women filmmakers. It’s time to turn these words into action.
This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women. For this reason, we ask that GKIDS, Variety & Annecy take a stand in support of 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.
With all due respect,
Women and Allies