It doesn’t take a sports fan, nor a socially active individual to have heard about the tragic helicopter crash that took the lives of famous basketball player Kobe Bryant, along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven other passengers. 

It was everywhere. It was spoken about on the news and all through social media when the news broke out. It was even the center of attention at this year’s Grammys, which was when the news broke out.

There’s no denying it’s tragic, and what makes it more horrific is the death of his teenage daughter Gianna, who was following in her dad’s footsteps on the court with the hopes of joining the WNBA. This crash leaves behind Kobe’s wife of 19 years Vanessa and the couple’s three remaining daughters – Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and baby Capri, who was born last June.

Understandably, the impact has been significant. This stretches beyond Lakers fans. Musicians, actors, people you wouldn’t even expect to have sent their condolences. 

I have nothing against sharing condolences. At times like these, where families will never be the same, it’s the only fitting thing to do. However, we shouldn’t sweep the muddier aspects of his career under the rug for comfortability. Complicity takes form in willful ignorance, and silence does more harm than good.

Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, Colorado in 2003. He denied three times having sex with her until he realized semen and blood evidence was taken. 

He then admitted that he didn’t exactly ask for consent, which was readily apparent from the bruise on her neck and an overwhelming amount of lacerations near her vagina, which prosecutors discovered. 

Bryant’s defense team emphasized her promiscuity, even though nurses stated that the injuries were likely to have occurred within the past 24 hours (the victim went to the police immediately.) There was no trial because the accuser stopped cooperating, and for reasons obvious enough. She was intimidated, and her entire reputation was smeared,. This ultimately resulted in her not continuing with the trial and settling for a civil settlement. Which, as we all know, means hush money. 

Bryant’s defense team intimidated the hell out of the accuser to prevent her from continuing the trial. We all know civil settlements are used to silence the opposing party, and this was no different. What’s more disheartening to hear is the argument, “Well, she must not have been that much of a victim to take the money.” Regardless of her choice to continue with trial or pursue a civil suit, that doesn’t take away from the fact that there was enough evidence to prove her claims.

Shaming the victim for pursuing and winning the lawsuit, rather than the perpetrator who forced her to discontinue the trial in the first place because he was aware of his wrongdoing, is a mentality that I can’t seem to wrap my head around. 

Now, for the individuals who believe in the “we all make mistakes” defense. Yes, we all make mistakes, and yes, we are capable of growing from them. 

Let this be clear: Rape is not a mistake. Repeat after me: Rape is not a mistake. 

Forcibly having intercourse with a woman to where there are lacerations around her vagina is not a mistake. Groping and rubbing against an individual who has expressed their displeasure along with the word “no” is not a mistake. There’s plenty of time for learning from your actions, and in Bryant’s case, it would have been jail time.

The good comes with the bad when reflecting on one’s legacy, especially one who chose to make their life as public as he did. Neglecting this allegation from the conversation because it’s not the right time and place, or because it doesn’t belong in his legacy according to you, does a complete disservice to his victim; the individual who wasn’t given a grace period before the death threats and intimidation from not only Bryant’s team but the media as well.

If you are still close-minded to the possibility of Kobe Bryant’s legacy simultaneously carrying good and bad aspects, such as being a father, husband, and famous basketball player, but also a man who raped a 19-year old to then intimidate her into silence, you are a part of the problem.

Read also:
Understanding Sexual Assault As A Tool For Oppression
An Open Letter To Survivors Of Sexual Assault
What’s The Real Case Behind False Rape Accusations?