‘Good Guys’ Do Bad Things

It’s Possible to Appreciate Kobe Bryant as an Athlete and Acknowledge His Wrongs

Graphic Joey Bruce

After the deaths of Kobe Bryant, Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli, Keri Altobelli, John Altobelli, Christina Mauser, Sarah Cheste, Payton Chester, and Ara Zobayan, the world is grieving.

Simultaneously, there are many whose experiences are being silenced.

Kobe Bryant is not only known for his basketball achievements, holding 18 National Basketball Association All-Star selections, winning five NBA championships, two Olympic gold medals, and scoring 81 points in a single game.

He is also seen by most as a good man.

Whether it be through his time with his family or founding the Kobe and Vanessa Bryant Family Foundation and other charity work, he was more than just a talented athlete.

Yet, an unavoidable part of this life was the 2003-2004 sexual assault case.

After reading the woman’s testimony, I was filled with anger.

With the graphic details shared in a Daily Beast article, it is hard to see Bryant as anything but a predator.

Yet, at the same time, I saw the recent backlash people received whenever Bryant’s sexual assault case was brought up.

An example of this is Felicia Sonmez being suspended from her job as a reporter for the Washington Post for tweeting a link to an old article—that she didn’t write—on the assault case.

And once again, I felt more anger.

Bryant’s accuser put on trial, as if she had committed the act rather than the act having been committed against her.

Bryant had to publicly declare that the woman who credibly accused him of rape didn’t receive any money—for people to stop questioning her motives.

Most importantly, not only was Bryant’s accuser violated and silenced, but once again another woman is being silenced for bringing attention to a sexual assault case.

“That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases,” Sonmez tweeted.

That is exactly the point.

“That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases,”- Felicia Sonmez

Bryant was someone who was worshipped by the world; therefore, the wrongs he committed, no matter how atrocious, will be pushed aside because of all the good that he has done.

He was never punished by the NBA, and his career was barely, if at all, negatively impacted by the case.

We have the societal belief that if a man sexually assaults a woman they have to be some kind of monster, but, most of the time, the perpetrator looks just like a regular guy or even a good guy.

While, sadly, it does happen too often, sexual assault doesn’t always have to be an extremely aggressive attack.

Sexual assault can simply be not asking for consent or reading signs of non-consent.

It can happen one time, with a partner that you’ve had sex with multiple times, just like it can happen from someone who purposely targets certain people.

You don’t have to be physically restrained for your experience to be valid.

You don’t have to be physically harmed for your experience to be valid.

Too often, society will only listen if the victim is left with visible injuries as proof.

If you feel like you were unsafe or uncomfortable saying no, or that you were not listened to when you expressed discomfort, your experience is valid.

Toxic masculinity and misogyny sadly have an influence on the ways that we think about or perceive things.

Good men do horrible things, sometimes without even realizing it.

Whether it was intentional or not, sexual assault is sexual assault and should be treated as such, no matter what the perpetrator does with the rest of their life.

For those who ignore the complaints of those addressing the flawed parts of Bryant, acknowledge this opportunity to address issues of consent and abuse of power when it comes to intimate relationships.

Go ahead and continue having your own beliefs about Bryant, because the issue isn’t him alone.

The issue is the social climate that allows the suffering of a woman to be subordinate to the success of an athlete, celebrity, or even a regular man.

The character of the perpetrator has nothing to do with whether the assault took place or not, it has everything to do with the experience of the other person and whether or not consent was obtained.

You don’t have to abandon your heroes because they’ve done bad things, but it’s important to realize that all humans are complex and perhaps even deeply flawed.

We don’t have to put talented people on a pedestal to appreciate some of the good they’ve done while acknowledging the wrongs.

Otherwise good guys can do bad things, and you had better believe it.