The Animation Is Film Festival decided to remove Kobe Bryant as a 2018 juror after 2003 rape allegations resurfaced. A petition was started by Women and Allies on Change.org to remove the former NBA superstar from the jury, citing his past history with sexual misconduct as the reasoning. Bryant won an Academy Award in March of this year for his part in making the animated short, Dear Basketball. Additionally, he has founded the animation company, Granity Studios.
GKIDS, the company that organizes the Animation Is Film Festival, announced this week that they were removing Kobe Bryant from this year's jury. The athlete's past recently came up again after the Academy Awards nomination, but he ended up winning anyway. GKIDS chief executive officer Eric Beckman had this to say about Bryant's removal.
"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."
The petition launched against Kobe Bryant's participation in the Animation Is Film Festival stated that keeping Bryant on the jury set a dangerous "precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve." The Women and Allies petition went onto say this.
"We, women and allies of the animation community demand that accused rapist and sexual predator Kobe Bryant be removed from the Jury of Animation is Film Festival. In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant's actions of sexual assault."
The Women and Allies group demanded that GKIDS quickly drop Bryant from being a jury at the fest, claiming that its "primary purposes is to champion and support women filmmakers." The #MeToo and Time's Up movements started to gain momentum last year, and Bryant's past seems to have caught up with him again, 15 years later. He had this to say about his dismissal from the festival jury.
"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."
In July of 2003, Kobe Bryant was arrested in Colorado for allegedly sexually assaulting a 19-year woman in a hotel room. At first, Bryant denied having sexual intercourse with the woman, but later changed his story when authorities revealed that they had physical evidence that said otherwise. Bryant changed his story and then maintained that the sexual encounter was consensual.
Further physical evidence was provided, but the judge dismissed the case after Kobe Bryant's accuser made the decision not to testify. However, she later filed a civil lawsuit, which was later settled out of court and resulted in Bryant making a public apology to the woman, though he never admitted to the rape charges. The incident was soon forgotten as the athlete's career started to rise again, and all of his corporate sponsorships ended up coming back with multi-million dollar contracts. Bryant signed a 7-year $136 million NBA contract one year later. Deadline was the first to report that Kobe Bryant had been uninvited to the Animation Is Film Festival.