Oscar winner Kobe Bryant has been removed from the Animation Is Film Festival jury amid new backlash surrounding his 2003 rape allegation. The L.A. Lakers legend was scheduled to serve on a panel and judge the annual event this weekend; however, organizers announced on Wednesday that he will no longer participate.
"After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury," Eric Beckman, founder of the festival and CEO of GKIDS, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "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."
Bryant, who won the Academy Award for his 2017 animated short, Dear Basketball, was dismissed after a petition was created on Change.org for the NBA star to be removed from the jury.
"This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women," the petition read. "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."
The petition only garnered 159 signatures.
Bryant responded to his removal from the Animation Is Film jury in a statement, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
"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. "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."
People on Twitter appeared outraged at the news, given that Bryant’s case was dropped and he was disinvited due to allegations even though Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the Supreme Court with allegations against him.
Bryant was arrested in July 2003 after a 19-year-old hotel employee claimed she was raped by the then-24-year-old player. The woman refused to testify and the case was later dropped. Bryant said he believed the sexual interaction was consensual but still publicly apologized in a statement.
"Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did," Bryant said in part. "After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her attorney, and even her testimony in person, I now understand how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
Bryant and the accuser later reached a settlement.
(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)