Kobe Bryant was removed Wednesday from the jury of this weekend’s Animation Is Film Festival. The move followed an online petition that called on the festival to do so due to the retired NBA star’s 2003 rape accusation.
Bryant received the Academy Award for Best Animated Short earlier this year with famed animator Glen Keane for the film “Dear Basketball,” based on the essay Bryant published on The Players’ Tribune announcing his retirement in 2015.
But with the #MeToo movement center stage in Hollywood, Bryant’s nomination and subsequent victory earned criticism from sexual abuse activists who pointed out his much-publicized sexual assault case 15 years ago, when a woman accused him of raping her in a Colorado hotel room. Bryant confessed to adultery but denied the assault accusation. Criminal charges were dropped after the accuser declined to testify, with a civil suit being settled out of court.
A Change.org petition set up by an organization called Women & Allies called on animation studio GKIDS, which sponsors the festival with the Annecy International Film Festival and Variety, to remove Bryant from this weekend’s proceedings. As of this writing, the petition has 141 signatures.
“In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant’s actions of sexual assault,” reads the petition. “We demand that GKIDS, Variety, & Annecy revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity.”
“On its website ‘Animation Is Film’ specifically states one of their primary purposes is to champion and support women filmmakers. It’s time to turn these words into action. […] 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.”
In a statement, GKIDS said that Bryant had been removed from the jury “to keep our collective energies focused on the films, the participating filmmakers, and our festival attendees.”
“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,” Bryant said in his own statement. “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.”