Kobe Bryant removed from animated film festival jury over sexual assault allegation

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 18, 2018
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A file photo of retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant. [Photo/VCG]

Retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant has been removed from the upcoming Animation Is Film (AIF) Festival over his 2003 sexual assault allegation amid ongoing "Me too" Movement.

"After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury," event honcho Eric Beckman was quoted as saying on Wednesday by Variety, a weekly American entertainment trade magazine and website. Beckman is the CEO of GKIDS, the independent animation distributor that produces the event.

The L.A. Lakers legend was set to be one of the jury members, along with Allison Abbate, executive vice president at Warner Animation Group, Jennifer Yuh Nelson, director of the "Kung Fu Panda 2," and some other Hollywood insiders, at the AIF Festival this weekend in western U.S. city of Los Angeles.

Bryant's Oscar for Best Animated Short Film at the 90th Academy Awards for his "Dear Basketball" has triggered controversies in the era of the "Me too" groundswell, with various people coming out with accusations of sexual abuse in the film industry.

AIF Festival organizers were urged to remove Bryant from the jury by an online petition over his previous rape allegation. Bryant was accused by a 19-year-old girl of sexual assault at a hotel in Colorado where he was staying while prepping for knee surgery. Criminal charges against Bryant were dropped a year later when the girl refused to testify in court. The two sides ultimately settled that lawsuit with specific terms of the settlement being undisd to the public. Bryant issued a statement to apologize directly to the girl but insisted that the sex was consensual.

"This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women," said the petition posted on Change.org.

"Keeping Kobe Bryant 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," adding the petition, stressing that it's time for the AIF Festival organizers to turn their words into action to champion and support women filmmakers.

Bryant expressed his disappointment at the decision in a statement released to Variety which is one of the sponsors of the event.

"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," he 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. I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation," he noted.

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