Looks like that 2003 rape allegation has caught up to Kobe Bryant after all these years.
Variety reports that the former five-time NBA world champion was cut by the Animation Is Film Festival jury last week, as a result of fallout from over his 15-year-old rape charge.
Bryant won an Academy Award this year for his animated short, Dear Basketball, and was tapped to serve on the jury of the festival this weekend. However, that ain’t happening.
“After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury,” said Eric Beckman, CEO of GKIDS, which produces the event. “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.”
The move was in direct response to a Change.org petition, titled, “Remove Sexual Predator Kobe Bryant from ‘Animation Is Film’ Festival Jury,” which had only 278 signatures as of press time.
Nonetheless, it looks as if someone at the festival didn’t want the heat.
“This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women,” the petition read. “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.”
In July 2003, a then 24-year-old Bryant was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old employee of a Colorado hotel. The charges were later dropped when the woman refused to testify; Bryant later settled a civil suit with the woman out of court and publicly apologized to her without admitting any guilt.
Bryant released a statement saying he was disappointed by the decision:
“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,” Bryant said. “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.”