What a reporter being suspended for Kobe Bryant rape case tweets says about society right now

A file photo dated on 2009 shows Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant during NBA All Star competitions in Dallas, Texas, United States. (Photo by Tolga Adanali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
A file photo dated on 2009 shows Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant during NBA All Star competitions in Dallas, Texas, United States. (Photo by Tolga Adanali/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Just a few days ago, the world woke up to the devastating news of the fatal helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, that left former NBA star, Kobe Bryant, and eight other people, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, dead.

As expected, tributes began to pour in from across the globe for the 41-year-old five-time NBA champion.

As social media was abuzz with news of the crash, many began to share memories and anecdotes about the star's life. 

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However, when Felicia Sonmez, a politics reporter at The Washington Post tweeted a link to a 2016 story about Kobe's 2003 rape allegation, which was settled out of court, she was reportedly harassed and received thousands of death threats.

The link is to a Daily Beast story titled: Kobe Bryant's Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser's Story, and the Half-Confession.

The story sheds light on an alleged 2003 rape incident where Kobe was accused by a then 19-year-old woman who was an employee at Colorado's Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, where he had stayed.

According to Vice, the woman "alleged Bryant choked her and forced her to have intercourse; evidence of the alleged attack included bruises on the woman's neck and vaginal injuries."

When Kobe later explained the bruises on his accuser's neck, he reportedly told investigators, "Yeah, I mean that's you know me and Michelle (a sexual partner of his at the time), that's what we, we do the same thing (sic)."

This seemed to be an admission that he was responsible for causing the bruises, however, the case was settled out of court, and Kobe apologised publicly, citing that he believed the sexual encounter was consensual.

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Among other things, the NBA star, in his apology, wrote: "I want to apologize to her (his accuser) for my behavior that night, and for the consequences she has suffered in the past year. Although this year has been incredibly difficult for me personally, I can only imagine the pain she has had to endure."

He further said: "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."

Regardless of Kobe having apologised and conceded that according to his accuser, whom he referred to as a 'young woman' in the statement, she did not consent to the encounter – Felicia was suspended from her job.

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Explaining the newspaper's decision to suspend Felicia, Managing Editor at The Washington Post, Tracy Grant, in a statement, said, "The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues."

The Washington Post also published an opinion piece by media critic, Erik Wemple, which detailed how Felicia reported the abuse she was receiving from Twitter trolls after posting the rape case story to her managers and how she was subsequently instructed to delete the tweets - which she later did. 

In another article by The Washington Post, Felicia is quoted as saying she tweeted to fill out the omitted details of Kobe's life.  "The seriousness of those allegations is a valid part of his legacy and his life. Those allegations should not be minimized in any way," she reportedly said.

In the same article, it is revealed that Felicia said she had been warned previously by her superiors at the newspaper about statements on social media regarding her own sexual assault allegations and that this has left her "deeply frustrated."

The reporter has been suspended for mentioning a publicly known fact about Kobe, while her own abuse that she suffered for mentioning the said fact was not addressed or called out.

Meanwhile, society remains divided on the matter: The Washington Post has received backlash, while others continue to blame Felicia for her tweet about the factual article on Kobe's life.

Do you think the rape allegation should be forgotten now that Kobe is deceased? Share your thoughts with us here.

Compiled by Nthabi Nhlapo

SOURCES: The Washington Post, ESPN, Vice, Daily Beast, CNN

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