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Kobe Bryant Axed From Animation Film Festival Jury After Public Backlash Over 2003 Rape Accusation

Bryant said in a statement that he was “disappointed” by the decision, which was made after a petition began circulating calling him a “sexual predator.”

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

Kobe Bryant will no longer serve on the jury of the Animation Is Film Festival after an online petition calling Bryant a “sexual predator” caught the eye of festival organizers.

The 40-year-old former Lakers star was slated to serve as a judge during the festival this weekend, but was axed from the panel after an online petition called for his removal, according to Variety, one of the sponsors of the events. Bryant’s inclusion on the jury “sets a precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve,” petition organizers wrote. The group called on sponsors like Variety as well as GKIDS, the company producing the event, to “take a stand in support of women.”

The decision to remove Bryant from the panel of judges was made after “discussions with the various stakeholders” of the festival, Eric Beckman, GKIDS CEO, said, according to Variety.

“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,” Beckman said.

Bryant became an Academy Award winner when “Dear Basketball,” a short animated film he wrote, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film earlier this year. The film was based on the essay Bryant wrote announcing his retirement and was brought to life by legendary Disney animator Glen Keane.

Marring Bryant’s forays into the world of animation, however, is a 2003 rape accusation. The former NBA star was accused in 2003 of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old woman during an encounter at a Colorado hotel. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Bryant after the alleged victim refused to testify, and the two later settled her civil lawsuit out of court.

In a recently released statement, Bryant said that he was “disappointed” to no longer be a judge for the 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,” his statement reads. “This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry. I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation.”

[Photo: Getty Images]

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