Content Warning: sexual assault, rape
Kobe Bryant is dead. It is a tragedy when any young person dies. I am certainly not trying to discount the many lives he has affected, or trying to disrespect his family—mainly his daughter who was also, heartbreakingly, killed in the recent crash. But it seems as if we are all forgetting about one crucial life he affected. In 2003, a 19-year old accused Bryant of raping her. Months later, he corroborated her story. He was never actually convicted, because she ended up dropping her legal case for the same reason many victims never go to court in the first place—a relentless bullying in and out of the courtroom by those trying to defend the accused.
Kobe Bryant is dead, so let’s remember him. But let’s make sure to remember him for who he is entirely. As I scroll through my Instagram feed and see people lauding him, I can only think of the woman whose life he changed forever. The trauma of rape never goes away, and all the trauma that follows, the public and private reaction of those you love and those you’ve never met, that doesn’t go away either. Think of that woman, of all women, or anyone that has been affected by sexual violence—probably most everyone in America knows someone who is a victim or has been one themselves—having to see us all remember an “NBA legend.” This is a reminder that that is not all Bryant was. He was a businessman, a husband, a father, a cheater, and a rapist. I know it might seem cruel to bring up the bad aspects of someone in the wake of their death, but I think it is cruel to erase the totality of this man. It is cruel to not only his victim that spoke out, but all the people that have spoken out or stayed silent after they have encountered the countless iterations of Kobe Bryant.
In 2003, my older sister, who was 7 or 8 at the time, was watching the news with my mom when they switched over to covering the ongoing story of Bryant’s trial. My sister asked my mom what “rape” meant. That’s how she got “the talk.” Not only the “sex talk,” or my mom’s awkward version of it, but the talk that would be ongoing for her whole life, for my whole life, and for most women’s lives. This talk is about when powerful men take advantage of you, when dipshit men take advantage of you, when really any man takes advantage of you for a seemingly simple but actually very complex reason: they’re a man and you’re not. Kobe Bryant was a multi-faceted man who has touched the lives of so many people. We cannot pick and choose which changes we want to focus on. We owe it to everyone to not erase the bad parts of someone after death, because then we erase the stories of those who are living.
Sophia Clevenger is a member of the class of 2022. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.