Former NBA star turned Oscar-winning filmmaker Kobe Bryant expressed disappointment on Wednesday after being removed from the jury of an animation film festival because of his 2003 rape case.
Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers icon who won an Academy Award this year for his animated short film “Dear Basketball”, was dumped from the Animation Is Film Festival after an online petition protesting his involvement.
“After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury,” festival founder Eric Beckman said in a statement.
“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.”
Bryant’s removal from the event came after a petition emerged last week calling on festival organisers and sponsors to drop the athlete.
The petition argued that Bryant’s involvement “sets a precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve.”
Bryant was charged with raping a 19-year-old hotel worker in Colorado in 2003 as he prepared for a knee operation. He denied the charges but admitted consensual sex with the woman.
The case later collapsed when his accuser refused to testify. A separate civil suit was settled out of court.
Bryant on Wednesday voiced dismay at his exclusion from this weekend’s film festival.
“I was honored to have been originally invited by Animation is Film to serve on the 2018 Jury, and am disappointed to no longer serve in that capacity,” Bryant said.
“This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry.”