Editorial: A holistic remembrance

The world was left in shock when news of famed basketball player Kobe Bryant’s death broke on Sunday, Jan. 26. Fans quickly took to social media to express their sorrows and give their condolences, celebrating his professional legacy and praising the positive impact he has had on millions. 

However, over 10,000 people turned this public outpouring of emotion harmful by sending death threats and abusive messages to Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez when she tweeted a 2016 article written about the rape allegations made against Bryant shortly after the news of his sudden death. Sonmez was referencing the 2003 sexual assault case filed against Bryant, for which he settled out of court after the accuser agreed to drop the lawsuit in exchange for a public apology. In his statement, Bryant apologizes to his accuser, admitting that he understands “how she feels that she did not consent to this encounter.” As a result of her tweet, Sonmez received backlash from masses of people claiming it was inappropriate and was subsequently suspended by the Washington Post.

This decision was ultimately overturned after a petition signed by 300 of her fellow journalists called for her reinstitution. In spite of one’s partiality, there is value in recognizing shortcomings in public figures and understanding the consequences of certain actions regardless of how diminutive they seem in the face of an illustrious legacy. We, at the Hoofprint, believe that truth is a necessity that cannot be compromised for comfort.

First and foremost, it is a journalist’s responsibility to represent all of the facts, no matter a person’s status or fame, and this open-mindedness should be reflected in fans and civilians alike. 

In covering Bryant’s death and legacy, we should acknowledge his life in its totality — both good and bad. One should recognize his athletic achievements as well as advocacy for women athletes, but that should not negate his past nor excuse him from his sexual assault case. 

We understand the need to remain sensitive to those affected by Bryant’s death, especially those who knew him personally. Much of the criticism against bringing awareness to his sexual assault case stems from the argument that it is inappropriate to scrutinize his past so soon after his death. But, this begs the question: When is the right time? 

In remembering a legacy, one cannot amplify someone’s achievements while silencing their malfeasance. Doing so would suggest that a certain level of public esteem exempts people of charges, even in the case of serious felonies such as rape. 

Honoring one’s memory and acknowledging one’s mistakes should not be viewed as mutually exclusive. Rather, moral responsibility starts with seeking out truth for oneself and subsequently re-examining the legacy people leave.

By the Head Editorial Board

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