Aspen Princess: Kobe’s remembrance after tragic death glosses over Colorado case
The Aspen Princess
For the past few days, I’ve been really disturbed by the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant.
I understand the impact professional sports might have on someone who grew up with it, especially if it conjures up meaningful memories from childhood, and the admiration and fandom sparked by such a tremendous athlete. But what I don’t understand is the hero worship, the way our society idolizes professional athletes as if they are more than mere mortals.
When I think of Kobe Bryant, I can’t forget that he was accused of raping a 19-year-old employee at Cordillera outside of Vail in 2003. I could put myself in her shoes. I was a ski bum at that age, working at a resort not far from there. I can totally imagine how a girl would consent to going back to Bryant’s hotel room with him.
Before you start getting defensive because you’re mourning the tragic death of a sports star, or because you’re a huge fan, or grew up in LA and went to Lakers games all your life, or because this incident happened a million years ago, and people should get over it already, consider how Bryant’s victim must feel. And think about how all the families of the other seven helicopter crash victims feel.
The local sheriff’s department had grounded all their helicopters that day because of fog. Why did Bryant feel the need to fly, and with his daughter and friends? I’m sure many of our local private pilots can imagine that conversation.
I think when tragedies like this happen it evokes something primal in all of us; the fear of dying or worse, losing someone we love, especially a close family member. There is something essentially human about this tragedy that unites all of us: a reminder of our mortality.
I understand that, too.
There’s also an unspoken rule in our culture to never speak negatively about the dead. I have seen this in Aspen, especially around suicide. I have, unfortunately, been to more than one funeral of a friend who took his life and wondered why no one had the guts to say one word about how the person died. While I understood it might be inappropriate, I also felt there was something superficial and unjust about not mentioning it at all. Wasn’t anyone else angry?
Sexual assault and domestic violence also are issues that tend to get swept under Aspen’s proverbial rug of hard-partying nights and powder days. While we might not have the same volume of incidents, the victim’s struggles are the same here as anywhere else.
I never looked at Kobe Bryant the same way after that incident. In fact, when I saw the news and began reading the outpouring of straight-up worship for the guy, I began to wonder if maybe I’d missed something that somehow absolved him of this horrendous event.
Instead, my Google search only reminded me of some of the unpleasant details. The victim had been examined by doctors who reported bruises on her neck, blood on her clothes, and other physical evidence of rape we won’t get into. The case was settled out of court because the victim refused to testify.
Bryant was married at the time, and in the Vail area to have knee surgery.
I also learned that Felicia Sonmez, a political reporter from the Washington Post who also is a victim of sexual assault, was put on administrative leave for posting a link to an article about the incident on Twitter a few hours after Bryant’s death. The tweet sparked an angry backlash, including death threats. The paper claimed she violated the company’s social media policy. Sonmez said she was responding to the early accounts of Bryant’s death that failed to mention the allegations.
As of Tuesday evening, The Washington Post reinstated her, no doubt in response to the pressure put on the paper by the Newspaper Guild including a letter of protest written to the newspaper’s executive editor with 345 signatures from her colleagues at the Post. The gist was that they were none too pleased with a journalist being punished for tweeting a factual statement.
And around and around she goes.
Whatever happened in that hotel room, Bryant never admitted guilt, even though he did issue an apology and paid an undisclosed sum in a civil suit. Maybe he grew up, became a better man, became a father to girls of his own. He had a family and became an advocate for women’s sports, especially the WNBA.
When I heard about the tragedy, my first thought was about that girl from Cordillera who is in her mid-30s now. I can’t imagine the outpouring of love for Kobe provided her much comfort.
The Princess can’t always say what you want to hear. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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