People around the world are grappling with the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant after he was killed in a helicopter crash on Sunday. Eight others died in the crash, including Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. As the news broke, celebrities and fans alike took to social media to voice their feelings about the star's death.
Tributes flowed from the likes of Shaquille O'Neal, Whoopi Goldberg and Barack Obama, offering their sympathy to the Bryant family and remembering Kobe's life.
Obama tweeted, "Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act. To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents. Michelle and I send love and prayers to Vanessa and the entire Bryant family on an unthinkable day."
While most Twitter users mourned the tragic loss of a sporting giant others had mixed feelings about the legacy Bryant left behind. A sexual assault case was brought against Bryant in 2003. The criminal case was subsequently dropped and the matter was ultimately settled out of court in a civil suit.
Writer Roxane Gay tweeted yesterday, “There are going to be a lot of complicated reactions to Kobe Bryant’s death but I feel all the sympathy in the world for Vanessa Bryant and their four daughters. 41 is so young. And he had a spectacular professional career.”
ESPN reporter, Jenna Laine also tweeted about Bryant, “I’ve talked with multiple friends about Kobe and how to address “the other stuff,” when looking back on his life. It’s OK to have complicated feelings about someone. We can glorify moments of their lives and chastise them for others.”
But not everyone was happy that people were so quick to bring up the allegations so soon after the athlete's death. Actress, Christina Applegate tweeted, “For one night can we not write about that other shit and just take a moment. That other shit is nothing compared to mortality I’m so sad. I know that this happens all the time, but when it just hits, it hits. Tragedy is so confusing.”
Staff writer at SB Nation, Zito Madu appeared to criticise the use of the word complicated in reference to Bryant’s death in a Twitter thread. He wrote, “If you’re going to mention the rape case, don’t just sprinkle it in there out of obligation. Using jargon like “complicated” is an easy way to glide past it. You can just write why someone who was so heroic to millions of people also represented rape culture at its fullest.” Madu went on to point out that, “It’s not an impossible thing to reckon with, nor does it have to take away from grief and how important he was to so many people.”
"Using jargon like “complicated” is an easy way to glide past it. You can just write why someone who was so heroic to millions of people also represented rape culture at its fullest.”
Matthew Ingram, writer at the Columbia Journalism review echoed Madu’s point saying, “Deaths like Kobe’s reinforce how we don’t really have a way to talk about both the good and bad aspects of someone like him -- it has to be either hero or villain. If the former, then you can’t mention the rape accusations; if the latter, then you can’t talk about his talents.”
Sexual assault survivors also shared their thoughts. One commented, “I believe that people aren’t a summation of the worst thing they’ve ever done. People are allowed to grow and be better, and I do believe Kobe did that. To my fellow survivors: however what you are feeling is valid. I love you and I support you.”
“I believe that people aren’t a summation of the worst thing they’ve ever done. People are allowed to grow and be better, and I do believe Kobe did that. To my fellow survivors: however what you are feeling is valid. I love you and I support you.”
Another said, “As a sexual assault survivor, I totally understand how difficult it must be for certain folks to deal with everyone acknowledging Kobe’s death and his legacy, but I urge everyone to remember that two things can be true at once and feelings are not facts.”
The NBA has postponed Tuesday’s match between the LA Lakers and the LA Clippers out of respect for those grieving Bryant’s death.
Zoe Victoria is a freelance writer. You can follow her on Twitter @Zoe__V