Kobe Bryant removed from film festival jury after protest over 2003 rape allegations

Oscar-winning cartoon maker Kobe Bryant was removed from a film festival jury, to be held this weekend, after the animation community signed a petition to revoke his involvement


                            Kobe Bryant removed from film festival jury after protest over 2003 rape allegations

It's the #MeToo era and there is no tolerance for anything that hints sexual misconduct. Oscar-winning cartoon maker Kobe Bryant was set to be a jury member for this weekend’s second annual Animation Is Film, a Los Angeles-based film festival. However, organizers removed him after the animation community protested the inclusion of an “accused rapist and sexual predator Kobe Bryant.” 

The Los Angeles Lakers player won an Oscar this year for his short film 'Dear Basketball,' and through his recently founded Granity Studios, he’s making an entrance into the film world. ESPN recently announced Bryant and Granity would be producing a second season of 'Detail,' which will feature Peyton Manning, who’s been accused of sexual harassment himself.

Kobe Bryant smiles at halftime as both his #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
Kobe Bryant smiles at halftime as both his #8 and #24 Los Angeles Lakers jerseys are retired at Staples Center on December 18, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

The animation community reminded the organizers Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel worker in 2003, and claimed he avoided a criminal trial verdict by bullying her into silence and later reaching a civil settlement. A petition started on behalf of “women and allies in the animation community” called on organizers GKIDS, Variety, and Annecy to disinvite Bryant, and in doing so, “revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity.”

The organizers dropped Bryant, deleted him from their website, and released the following statement to Cartoon Brew: “After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury. 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 released his own statement expressing disappointment, but did not address the petition and the rape allegations that led to the invitation being revoked. “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. 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.”

Filmmaker Kobe Bryant, winner of the Best Animated Short Film award for 'Dear Basketball,' poses in the press room during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California.
Filmmaker Kobe Bryant, winner of the Best Animated Short Film award for 'Dear Basketball,' poses in the press room during the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California.

This is not the first controversy for the Oscar-winner as another petition earlier this year called for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to overrule his nomination for Best Animated Short Film. Over 17,000 people signed the petition in the midst of the #MeToo movement.

“An important conversation has been started about sexual assault and harassment,” the earlier petition read. “So why is Bryant being honored for best animated short if Time really is Up?” However, Bryant’s short film 'Dear Basketball' eventually won the Oscar.