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.
— Stephen Miller (@redsteeze) March 5, 2018
A reminder that @kobebryant — who just won at the #Oscars — was credibly accused of rape in 2003. If you’ve never learned the details — and never read Kobe’s half-confession — do so now. It’s a #MeToo story — but he just got handed a trophy by Hollywood.🤔https://t.co/Z0toZBuBSd pic.twitter.com/CRqTHeBMUU
— Jerry Dunleavy IV (@JerryDunleavy) March 5, 2018
— Dr Jane Ruby 🇺🇸 💙 (@DrJaneRuby) March 5, 2018
— Joe ‘Monk’ Pardavila (@joepardavila) March 5, 2018
So Harvey Weinstein gets kicked out of Hollywood and Kobe Bryant gets two jerseys retired and wins an Oscar in the same #metoo year. Simply amazing.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) March 5, 2018
— Siobhan Morris (@siomo) March 5, 2018
Kobe Bryant is an Oscar winner. What a great moment for the #metoo movement!
— Stacey Gotsulias (@StaceGots) March 5, 2018
Do you guys remember when Kobe Bryant was a rapist, because I do #Oscars
— Justine Peres Smith (@redroomrantings) March 5, 2018
— Wagatwe Wanjuki (@wagatwe) March 5, 2018
Hollywood is celebrating #MeToo by giving Kobe Bryant an Oscar.
— Trendulkar (@Trendulkar) March 5, 2018
Some celebrities, however, supported Bryant, including fellow NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and LeBron James:
Congrats to KOBE first Oscar that’s big bro #dearbasketball. Proud of you, Big honor for you and your family. I’m jealous lol
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) March 5, 2018
— LeBron James (@KingJames) March 5, 2018
Kobe Bryant didn’t just shut up and dribble. He won an Oscar.
— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) March 5, 2018
.@KOBE! If you haven’t seen it, you are missing such a treat! Find it and love it!!!
— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) March 5, 2018
With his Oscar win did @kobebryant just pass MJ as greatest of all time?
— Owen Smith (@OwenSmith4Real) March 5, 2018
Congratulations to my hero. Giving me more motivation and taking home an Oscar. @kobebryant don’t ever slow down!
— O’Shea Jackson Jr (@OsheaJacksonJr) March 5, 2018
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.