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LA Times posts about Kobe's 'complicated' legacy

Susan Estrich on

Nine days after the helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Times -- which treated the crash as if the entire city were on fire, taking down the paywall on digital stories about him in a transparent effort to boost its circulation numbers -- finally got around to acknowledging that Bryant's legacy might be "complicated."

Not for everyone, mind you, and certainly not for the fawning newspaper.

To quote the headline (that was below the fold, of course, and then removed from its homepage within a day), "For Survivors of Sexual Assault, Kobe Bryant's Legacy Is Complicated." Another edition noted, "survivors struggling with Bryant's legacy."

It's our problem. It wasn't a story about what Kobe did wrong but about all of us poor survivors, or at least the few they bothered to talk to, huddled before their televisions, wondering when someone would mention it.

Our problem. Poor survivors.

The "allegations" were given short shrift. After all, the charges were dismissed. He didn't think he did anything wrong, even though he had to acknowledge that she didn't consent.

 

Having sex with a 19-year-old who doesn't consent is called rape, or, if you prefer, felony sexual assault. The force comes when you, a professional athlete, shove her on a bed, tear off her clothes and have sex with her. I wrote a book about this -- 35 years ago. By the time the girl left his hotel room in tears, Kobe had already called in the handlers and the lawyers. He tried denying that he had sex with her, notwithstanding bruises and blood. When that didn't work, he admitted that he never asked her for consent. His lawyers challenged the charges. They lost.

It was Kobe's best season. He would come back from the court hearings to a standing ovation at the Staples Center, where survivors like me found themselves cringing in their seats. Like the survivors in today's paper.

I was teaching a workshop at Harvard to rape crisis counselors from around the country. I asked the men and women in the audience -- experts all -- what they would do if their daughter were to come home and tell them what Kobe's victim had said to her parents. "Would you call the police?" I asked. Not a single hand went up. We knew what would happen, and it did.

The criminal charges were dismissed one week before opening arguments in the trial because the girl and her family were too afraid to pursue them any further.

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