NBA legend Kobe Bryant passed away on Sunday when a helicopter he was travelling in crashed and burst into flames in thick fog in Calabasas, west of Los Angeles.
All nine people on board including his teenage daughter were killed. They had been travelling for his daughter Gianna’s basketball game which was to begin on Sunday afternoon in the Thousand Oaks area.
His death was met with shock and grief, and condolences poured in from across the globe. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players in history, an iconic figure who became one of the faces of his sport during a glittering two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
But even as millions across the world mourned the demise of the basketball legend, murmurs arose about the sexual assault allegations he had found himself embroiled in a few years ago.
Bryant’s career was almost derailed in 2003 when he was arrested in Colorado over a sexual assault complaint filed by a 19-year-old hotel employee where Bryant was staying ahead of a knee surgery.
Bryant was accused of rape. The father of four who got married in 2001 admitted to adultery, but denied the rape accusations.
In 2004, the case was dropped after the accuser refused to testify in a trial, and Bryant issued an apology saying he could understand how she might feel there was no consent.
A separate civil suit was settled under terms kept private.
While many brought up the allegations on social media, one journalist in particular found herself in trouble over the reminder. According to reports, Washington Post journalist Felicia Sonmez was suspended after she posted an earlier article on the rape allegation on Twitter. The article had not been authored by her. Nor was it a recent one.
The publication said that her “poor judgement” had undermined the work of her colleagues.
Sonmez initially defended herself with a follow-up tweet on the issue, but later, both posts were deleted.
“Well, THAT was eye-opening. To the 10,000 people (literally) who have commented and emailed me with abuse and death threats, please take a moment and read the story — which was written 3+ years ago, and not by me. Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality, even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling. That folks are responding with rage & 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,” she wrote in the now deleted tweet.
The incident has left social media divided. While some saw her post as being unnecessary or problematic, many others were not happy with the fact that she had been suspended.
Take a look:
(With inputs from agencies)