Retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has been removed from the jury of the Animation Is Film Festival after a 2003 rape allegation against him resurfaced online.
“After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury,” said Eric Beckman, the CEO of the animation film distribution company GKIDS producing the festival, in a statement. “We are a young organization and it is important to keep our collective energies focused on the films, the participating filmmakers, and our festival attendees.”
The move reportedly came after a petition was posted last week on Change.org urging the festival organizers to remove Bryant.
"We, women and allies of the animation community demand that accused rapist and sexual predator Kobe Bryant be removed from the Jury of Animation is Film Festival,” the petition said.
Bryant responded to the festival’s decision in a statement provided to BuzzFeed News saying he was “disappointed,” but that his removal from the jury will motivate his “commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry.”
Bryant was asked to join the jury initially because he won the Oscar for Best Animated Short this year with his film Dear Basketball. However, the petition against his appointment notes that the festival’s website lists championing and supporting women filmmakers as one of its goals.
In 2003, Bryant was accused of sexually assaulting a Colorado hotel employee. The charges were dropped once his accuser refused to testify and Bryant made a public apology. Bryant and his accuser then settled a civil lawsuit in 2005.