Kobe Bryant criticized for past sexual assault accusation following Oscar win

Retired basketball star Kobe Bryant, 39, became an Academy Award winner this weekend, but many social media users aren’t supportive of honoring the Lower Merion native in the face of the #MeToo movement.

Bryant’s Dear Basketball took home the Oscar for best animated short at the 90th Academy Awards on Sunday. The six-minute film deals with his retirement from the NBA in 2016, and features writing and producing by the former longtime Los Angeles Laker. With the win, Bryant became the first former NBA player to take home an Oscar.

“This feels better than winning the championship, to be honest with you,” Bryant said following his win. “I heard a lot of people telling me when I started writing and they would ask me, ‘What are you going to do when you retire?’ I got a lot of, ‘That’s cute. You’ll be depressed when your career is over, and you’ll come back to playing.’ And so, to be here right now and to have a sense of validation is…crazy”

Critics, however, quickly focused on Bryant’s controversial past, pointing to a 2003 sexual assault case follow his win Sunday.

At the time, a 19-year-old woman claimed Bryant had sexually assaulted her when he stayed at the Colorado hotel where she worked. Police arrested Bryant, then 24, and charged him with one count of sexual assault.

Ultimately, the case was dropped after Bryant’s accused refused to testify. A subsequent civil suit was later settled out of court for an undisclosed amount in 2005.

“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 in a statement 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.”

Social media users criticized the Academy online following Bryant’s award. Some focused on the timing of the award, which came following a presentation about the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements hosted by Harvey Weinstein accusers Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra, Salma Hayek, and others. Others commented on the incongruity of awarding an accused rapist during a year when anti-harassment was the ceremony’s big focus.

Some celebrities, however, supported Bryant, including fellow NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James:

According to Fox, the five-time NBA champ showed up to the Oscars with wife Vanessa as his date. The pair divorced in 2011, but got back together in 2013. The couple’s youngest child, Bianca, was born in 2016, several months after his retirement from basketball.