I should have expected it. In a way, I guess I did, but I thought maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t happen. But then again, whenever the party of the first part and the party of the second part are of different races, I guess eventually it does become an issue. I am talking about race. And the case I’m referring to is the story of Kobe Bryant and the rape charges against him. And, no, it’s not my imagination.
Sometimes we think star athletes are above reproach, that no matter what they do off the court or field, that it really doesn’t matter as long as they perform in the game. We also tend to think that skin color doesn’t matter much when it comes to athletes, that star worship is colorblind.
But, ’taint so.
A few days ago a national newspaper ran an article about how blacks and whites view Kobe’s case differently. And already, the case is being compared to that of O.J. Simpson, where polls repeatedly showed that opinions about the case and the defendant were separated by racial lines.
The article was based on a poll of about 1,000 people and showed that blacks were more likely to sympathize with Kobe and also more likely to believe that the charge is false.
But that’s not the end of it. In Eagle, Colo., the city where the Bryant trial is to be held, racist flyers are being circulated by a white supremacist group that says the fliers are a result of the case. “Don’t have sex with blacks,” the fliers warn. A spokesperson for the National Alliance said her group is concerned about areas of the country where the black population is small, implying that whites who may be unfamiliar with blacks might be more prone to cross racial lines, because they are unaware of the dangers African Americans pose, such as transmitting disease via sexual contact. The fliers contain no real threat, so nothing can really be done about them.
And then there’s Kobe’s side. And, really, some could accuse him of “playing the race card” first.
At his recent appearance at an awards program, Kobe arrived, with wife in tow, wearing a T-shirt that featured the likeness of Muhammad Ali. During his few minutes at the microphone of the program, Kobe paraphrased the words of Martin Luther King Jr. concerning injustice.
Kobe’s defense is that he did not commit sexual assault; he “only” committed adultery and that the “only” people he hurt were himself and his wife. “Only.” As far as his wife is concerned, Kobe says the relationship is intact; and there’s a $4 million purple diamond ring on her finger to prove it.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the case, in and out of the media. In Kobe’s defense, people are saying he’s only human, a man, and capable of making mistakes. Poor, poor Kobe. He just didn’t know any better. He thought it would be OK to have sex with a young woman and no one would be the wiser. He would have had a little fun, she would have had a little fun and a story to tell about her contact with a famous athlete, and that would be that. Maybe he would even give her some money or an expensive gift. Race was not a factor then, apparently.
Here’s my 2 cents, for what it’s worth. Kobe should have known better. As an athlete of notoriety, he should have realized he was more vulnerable to attention from women and also more vulnerable to accusations of rape, real or not.
I have no real sympathy for him, I must say. The admission of adultery is serious enough to me, but then, it is not a crime as is rape. Looks like a diamond ring smoothed over the adultery.
If found guilty, Kobe faces the loss of his livelihood and his freedom, and no size diamond or any amount of money will be able to get them back.