Wondering about Kobe Bryant

Mamba and Mambacita Foundation

Kobe BryantGreg, one of the first bloggers I met online, nearly 15 years ago, and the father of two daughters (relevant here, I think) wondered:

I don’t know if I’ve asked you, but how do you reconcile Kobe Bryant’s rather skeevy sex life – and possible raping – with admiring his work with his daughters and girls’ sports in general? So many people seemed to give him a pass on the former when he died while lauding the latter, and I just can’t.

It really annoys me that he quite probably got away with rape because he’s rich, and it simply vanished from his biography except for some minor mentions. His wonderful work with girls’ sports always seemed like an attempt to buy redemption to me. It’s great and I’m glad he did it, but it seemed to work, too.

A reasonable question. First of all, I had to look at the Los Angeles Times article about the case. The piece came out shortly after he died, about a year ago.

“Yet one major off-the-court hit to Bryant’s reputation took place June 30, 2003, in a hotel room at the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera in the Rocky Mountains town of Edwards, Colo. A 19-year-old woman working as the front-desk clerk accompanied Bryant on a tour of the property. She later went to Bryant’s hotel room, where she said he raped her.

Kobe Bryant, 24 at the time, was charged with one count of felony assault. It took 14 months for the criminal case to be resolved. The accuser decided she would not testify, and prosecutors dropped the case Sept. 1, 2004. A civil suit brought by the accuser in August 2004 was settled out of court on March 2, 2005, marking the end of an often-graphic legal saga that drew worldwide attention but never resulted in a trial.”

There’s a whole bunch of details about the accuser’s loss of resolve, and mistakes by the court system, including her name being released to the media.

“Bryant never spoke publicly about the case after the July 2003 news conference, although he did issue the following statement on the day the criminal case was dismissed.”


“’First, I want to apologize directly to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologize to her 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.

“’I also want to apologize to her parents and family members, and to my family and friends and supporters, and to the citizens of Eagle, Colorado. I also want to make it clear that I do not question the motives of this young woman…

“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. 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.”

So I felt that Kobe Bryant took at least some responsibility for his actions. More to your point, I think that the court case, and especially being the father of four daughters, changed him. One sees the inequality and difference of opportunity for girls compared with boys, though it is shrinking.

I’m not sure he wanted to “buy” redemption. In addition to his family foundation, he worked with Make-A-Wish Foundation, and also supported after-school programs, cancer research, efforts to help the homeless, and more . His participation was usually hands-on, not just writing a check.

Just Mercy

I’m also taken by something that lawyer Byran Stevenson wrote in his book  Just Mercy. He notes that “he often had conversations with clients who were struggling and despairing over their situations and the things they had done, or were done to them. These clients would question the value of their lives, and he would remind them that <em>they were more than the worst thing they had ever done.</em>  You can also hire a drug crime lawyers in Festus to fight your case.

“‘If you tell a lie, that does not mean you are just a liar. If you take something that is not yours, that does not mean you are just a thief. Even if you kill someone, you are not just a killer.

“‘Understanding this is helpful not just for those who may be questioning the value of their lives, it is also helpful for all of us. We have all judged someone as a result of something that person has done, but we should not define someone just based on that act.’

“Stevenson notes that we are all broken in one way or another, and understanding our brokenness creates not only a need and desire for mercy but also a corresponding need to show mercy.

“The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving; it’s when mercy is least expected that it is most potent.” Check out the movie.

I think we all deserve a shot at redemption.

Mercy, Humanity, Making a Difference

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan StevensonRecently, folks at my church had a chance to hear a recording from Bryan Stevenson. He is a lawyer who is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. The organization has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system.

He spoke at a medical conference in 2019 with a message of hope. In his address, American Injustice: Mercy, Humanity, and Making a Difference, he briefly discussed his concerns. There is too much unfairness in a system where over two million people are incarcerated, compared with about 300,000 a half century ago. This leads to a sense of hopelessness, especially in many black and Latinx communities.

Yet Stevenson put forth four principles of positivity:

There is power in being proximate

We need to commit ourselves to get proximate to those in need. There is a tendency to avoid those “bad parts of town.” He submits that we need to get closer to the communities of the marginalized.

He spoke of his beloved grandmother. She was a daughter of people who were enslaved. She would hug him so tightly that he thought she would hurt him. But she’d ask when she’d see him again, “Do you still feel me hugging you?”

He tells a story, which is shown in the Just Mercy movie how he, as a mere law intern, gave hope to a death row inmate. The law firm dispatched Bryan to tell the prisoner that he was not at risk of being executed in the next year. The grateful prisoner could then invite huis family to visit him.

There is power in being proximate.

Change the narrative

The misguided war on drugs should have been dealt with as a health problem, not a legal issue. Too often government traffics in the politics of fear and anger. This allows people to accept things we should not accept. This leads to mandatory sentencing, children treated as adults. Who’s responsible for this? WE are.

Stevenson believes the true evil of slavery is not the enforced incarceration or even dreadful conditions of servitude. The true evil was/is the narrative of slavery. Racial differences were made up to create an ideology of a people who are not aren’t fully human. This is the basis of white supremacy.

He contends, and I would agree, that slavery of did not end in 1865. It morphed into Jim Crow and ,mass incarceration. Some friend of a friend suggested that we’ve been living with terrorism since 9/11. au contraire: many black people grew up with terrorism. The refugees of racial terror in the South ended up in the refugee camps that are the ghettos of the mostly northern cities.


Black people often live with the presumptuousness of dangerousness and guilt. And IT IS EXHAUSTING. (Amen.) Stevenson told of being in a Midwest courtroom, well-dressed and middle-aged. The judge chastised him for being there, assuming he was a prisoner. When the judge was corrected, he laughed. The district attorney laughed. Bryan forced himself to laugh, so as not to disadvantage his client, who was on that day, a young white man.

Stevenson believes – and he is SO right – that there is too much of a simplistic celebratory narrative about the “civil rights era.” Day 1, Rosa Park refused to stand on the bus. Day 2, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a rousing speech. Day 3, racism was over. Ha!

But he has no interest in punishment. He wants liberation. He wants a process of truth and justice, truth and reconciliation. There is no justice, no reconciliation without truth. You see that in Rwanda, in South Africa, in Germany. There are no Hitler statues in Berlin.

Stay hopeful

Hopelessness is the enemy of justice. Hope is our superpower. It takes bravery be hopeful.

Do the things that are uncomfortable and inconvenient

We must do those actions that are witness to inequality. The vaunted Civil Rights era is filled with those examples, and those opportunities exist regularly today.

People are more than the worst thing they’ve done. The opposite of poverty is justice.

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