Harsh spotlight will stay on Kobe awhile
Criminal case over, but allegations of adultery follow star
Helen Richardson Davis / Pool via Getty Images
Our criminal justice system may have its flaws, but it beats the heck out of the court of public opinion. In the latter, the lady with the blindfold holding the scales of justice is tipsy. Testimony and evidence comes and goes, and there is no banging of a gavel to limit it. In some places, such as Eagle, Colo., for instance, court clerks occasionally commit egregious errors by hitting the wrong key on their computer; their counterparts in the court of public opinion are gremlins, who have no scruples and delight in the spread of truth, fiction, innuendo, gossip, facts, supposition and hasty conclusions.
I bring this up because Sports Illustrated released a story this week that figures to extend the time period between the end of Bryant’s criminal case and that moment in the future when he is again shown on television patting little kids on the head in a McDonald’s commercial.
Will questions about Bryant’s private life persist? You bet they will. The SI story is just an appetizer.
That is not to say he is guilty of being a serial adulterer. Nor does it mean he has had incidents with other women in which they claim the sex was not consensual but he insists it was.
Whatever the truth is, it’s out there. And it will come out, as it always does, no matter how vigorously Pamela Mackey battles to suppress it. So far, it doesn’t sound flattering to Bryant.
Even though Bryant’s legal team managed to obtain a temporary restraining order to seal all the records from the case to prevent its client from being embarrassed, SI obtained the statement made by the Lakers’ star and recorded by police before he was arrested.
The magazine released some of the juicier tidbits. Bryant apparently denied at first that he had sex with the alleged victim. He not only changed his tune, but admitted to “holding her around her neck from behind,” and then he described a series of sex acts he had with his accuser.
This is not the kind of thing that will improve Bryant’s Q rating. When one of the shoe companies hires Bryant to shill for them, they don’t mention that their product offers extra traction during sexual encounters.
The statement, according to the SI article, also mentions that Bryant told the officers who questioned him that he would pay to make the charges go away because “I’m in the worst (expletive) situation.” Suggesting he would pay off the woman to forget they ever had sex is sleazy. Mentioning it to the cops is brainless.
Then Bryant, according to SI, told police he knew another NBA player who paid hush money to keep women quiet about sex. Bryant added that he never had to do that because he has respect for the women he gets involved with, and therefore they wouldn’t tell on him.
The SI piece also says Bryant told police about a girl in Virginia named “Michelle” with whom he had a consensual sexual relationship.
So what has come of these charges against Bryant? He was accused of rape, and although the criminal charges were dropped after he issued an apology, he still faces a civil suit on the matter. If it goes forward, it surely will produce more tabloid fare. Revelations have emerged about other alleged indiscretions. A woman in Portland, Ore., claimed Bryant made romantic overtures toward her. A woman in Florida claimed she was groped by Bryant against her will at a party at Shaquille O’Neal’s house in Orlando. And, of course, there’s “Michelle in Virginia.”
The court of public opinion is in session.
Before these leaks of his statement to police, I believed the rehabilitation of Bryant’s image would take place quickly. After all, we live in a forgiving nation. Two years from now, much will have transpired. Bryant is known, first and foremost, for being a basketball player. In the next couple of seasons, he could conceivably put his own indelible mark on his club, and the memories of Shaq and Phil Jackson and the rest of the crew, so vital to the winning of three championships, will fade into history.
That, in turn, would lift his profile as a player, and thus make him more attractive as a corporate spokesman. With the criminal charges dropped, and assuming he writes a check to make the civil case disappear, he could have a clean slate in no time. And all it cost him was millions in legal fees, millions for a settlement, and even more millions in jewelry for his wife.
But now the public must wonder what other shoes will be dropped. If he made moves on the aforementioned quartet of women, isn’t it conceivable that there could be more? Will the media go on a feeding frenzy to find them and have them come forward?
One of the downsides of being a superstar basketball player is that there’s nowhere to hide. Reporters attend the games. They ask questions. Most of these representatives are legitimate and respectable, but now Bryant has become a slime magnet. There are any number of publications and broadcast outlets that are obsessed with prurient matters. They’ll dig up dirt, then ask questions about it.
Naturally, he’s responsible, because it is his behavior that incited them.
What’s strange is that among professional athletes, there are womanizers who practice their craft far more frequently than Bryant. But he has become the poster boy for that dubious fraternity because of the criminal charges and their aftermath. At this rate, he figures to reign in that position for a long, long time.
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