On Kobe Bryant’s Complicated Past, and Why People Like Felicia Sonmez Are Missing the Point

In the Sunday hours following Kobe Bryant’s death, Washington Post national political reporter Felicia Sonmez retweeted a link to a Daily Beast article on Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault incident, a story titled “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.”

Sonmez faced immediate backlash for the timing of the tweet and was suspended by the Post for displaying “poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues,” according to Managing Editor Tracy Grant.

That rape case certainly is important, and it’s absolutely worth mentioning when discussing Kobe’s life and legacy in its entirety. It was very public and dominated headlines, a story that ended with an out of court settlement after sexual assault charges were dropped by the 19-year-old accuser, who was dragged through the mud and smeared and ultimately decided not to testify. Instead, Bryant apologized and explained his understanding that the encounter was not consensual, though he never admitted guilt.

But that’s not really what this is about, the case itself.

It’s about this –

Did the 2003 incident need to be the first thing tweeted about on Sunday afternoon, while the wreckage of the helicopter was still smoldering? After a tragedy in which a father died alongside his daughter and seven other people? No, probably not. Perhaps Sonmez could have waited 24, 48, or 72 hours before digging right into the man’s past transgressions and mistakes and highlighting the low-point of his life and his wife’s life. Maybe a little bit of sensitivity was in order, that ability to step back, read the room, and say, “perhaps it isn’t appropriate to do this right now.

That’s what Sonmez’s critics were calling for, though it seems like she doesn’t understand this. Reinstated by the Post on Tuesday, she doubled down in a series of tweets that continue to miss the point:

That’s all good and well, but it’s totally off-base.

This isn’t about telling “ALL the truth,” as Sonmez writes, it’s about showing a bit of restraint and understanding in the immediate hours following a tragedy. At the time, you had a widow mourning her husband’s death and surviving daughters imagining life without their father and sister. This was a time period when seven other victims hadn’t even been identified yet, when first responders were still on the scene and trying to gather all of the facts.

As such, Sonmez’s decision to immediately go to the rape case comes off as tone deaf for the reason of TIMING alone. She didn’t need to be suspended for a retweet, which is ridiculous, but the Post should have just pulled her aside and said, “Felicia, listen, let’s just give this a minute before bringing up the sexual assault topic.” Instead, Sonmez  wound up making herself the story, which is the first thing they teach you not to do in journalism school.

Consider, as a counterpoint, the way Bob Costas decided to include the sexual assault case in his words about Kobe Bryant –

That was a much more tasteful, measured, and appropriate way to address the subject.

In conclusion, nobody is sitting here saying that the rape case is unimportant, and that bears repeating:

Nobody is sitting here saying the rape case is unimportant.

That’s part of Kobe’s life and legacy and always will be. It’s certainly a complicated topic worthy of discussion, an abrasive subject that will obviously conflict with the natural canonization of a high-profile athlete or celebrity following their death. The specific problem people have with Sonmez is the timing of the retweet and continued misunderstanding of the negative response. This isn’t about telling “the truth” or doing some kind of journalistic duty; it’s about taking a step back and letting the dust settle, both literally and figuratively, before going negative on a guy who just died in a helicopter crash alongside his teenage daughter.

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25 Responses

    1. It is Kink’s small feet syndrome. It is difficult going thru life being a normal man with size 6 child’s boots.

  1. If Harvey Weinstein dies tomorrow, how long should the press wait until bringing up the rapes? After all, we all loved Kill Bill so we should allow some time for his fans to process his death before sharing anything negative, right?

    I don’t agree with Felicia’s choices here but I absolutely defend her right to do it. If she wants to deal with the backlash, let her. Her employer should not have gotten involved…. If the facts upset you, that’s your problem.

    1. It’s horrific. You’d think every person in the Philadelphia area was Kobe Bryant’s lifelong best friend. Is this how people make themselves feel important?

  2. Kobe’s “Complicated Past”? Nice spin for a guy whose wealth got him off from serious prison time. Will the Kobe Hero Worshiping ever stop? SMH 🤦‍♂️

  3. pretty spot on …it is something to parse over after the tragedy for that family and the other family’s subsides … a piece in a week or two about how we should not continue to go on and on about how unreal a guy he was without remembering he had some seriously questionable past behaviors would have been better.

  4. Kobe is and was a rapist! The lady spoke the truth, now hopefully she wises up and stops being a liberal democrat.

  5. Kobe bounced a basketball and made multi-millions of dollars. Right now there are people serving in our military overseas, firefighters battling house fires, cops putting their lives on the line, doctors & nurses helping sick people. These are the true heroes; not some hoops player who should have gone to jail.

  6. These comments are tone deaf. Not sure if it’s one or two people who spend their time making these comments, but it’s sad.

    Evolve.

  7. What that roundball dude did to that 19 year old hotel maid was beyond horrific. Read the details and then come on here and praise that guy.
    If he was a normal guy named Jamal Jones, he would have gotten 25 to life. But Kobe used his wealth to get out of it.
    The attacks and smearing of that young girl were Clintonian.

  8. Kinker: this was a nice piece. You totally get it. Don’t listen to these morons. People who agree with you don’t post comments bc most of them have jobs and are productive members of society. Only the loser trolls post comments. Keep up the good work.

  9. I agree that it wasn’t the appropriate time to mention the rape case, but it’s not like it wasn’t expected. The media is all about inserting their opinion of a subject into a story where it doesn’t belong, true or not. How many stories start off with “John Doe, former cat molester, cured cancer today.” If the writer doesn’t like the subject they start off with a comment to sway public opinion before diving into the actual story. There are no journalistic standards anymore. But then that’s what you get when you replace a career field with minimum wage hacks who didn’t study the subject. It lowers the standards for everyone.

  10. Social media backlash to social media post, also heres the right way to right way to social media. Simple solution…….STOP USING SOCIAL MEDIA.

    Just anonymously vent during workdays on a local sports blogs, works for me….

  11. Anyone else see ESPN’s Holly Rowe in the background of the picture looking THICC!!!!!! I’d like to smother those easter hams in my honey

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