Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape allegations are back in the spotlight.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend-turned-Oscar winner was originally scheduled to be a part of the jury during the Animation Is Film Festival this weekend, before a petition called for his removal.
Petitioning against Kobe Bryant
The petition, which was started by Woman and Allies on Change.org, said that in “light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant’s actions of sexual assault.”
Organizers called on GKIDS, the independent animation distributor that produces the event, as well as Variety and Annecy, sponsors of the event, to revoke what they call complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without accountability both as an individual and a celebrity.
Keeping him on the jury, the petition says, sets a precedent for sexual criminals while disrespecting their victims.
“This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women.”
According to petition updates, Bryant had been removed from the event’s website on Friday, but the official statement was not released until Wednesday.
Film Festival speaks out
Eric Beckman, the CEO of GKIDS, addressed the complaints and said that the stakeholders decided to “drop Bryant to keep its focus on films.”
“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.” Beckman said.
Bryant also released a statement Wednesday, expressing disappointment, but not addressing the petition and the rape allegations that led to the invitation being rescinded.
“This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry,” Bryant said. “I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation.”
Not the first controversy for the Oscar-winner
A different petition earlier this year called for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rescind his nomination for Best Animated Short Film.
Over 17,000 people signed the petition, which started in the midst of the #MeToo movement.
“An important conversation has been started about sexual assault and harassment,” organizers wrote. “So why is Bryant being honored for best animated short if Time really is Up?”
Bryant’s short film “Dear Basketball” eventually won the Oscar.
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