Kobe Bryant has been demoted. Originally set to rule on the jury for Hollywood’s Animation Is Film festival this weekend (Oct. 19-21), Bryant has been pulled from his juror position due to the controversy surrounding his 2003 rape allegations.
Announced in a statement by festival founder Eric Beckman, the decision to remove Bryant from the 2018 jury was a last-minute call, made Wednesday (Oct. 17).
“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” Beckman stated.
Though it’s unclear what sparked the change of heart, last week a change.org petition was made for Bryant’s removal, with signers urging that “keeping Kobe Bryant on the jury sets a precedent of leniency for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve.”
Responding to the removal in a statement made to The Hollywood Reporter, Bryant claims that the disappointing decision only further motivates him to change the world for the better.
“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,” he 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.”
In July 2003, Bryant was arrested for the alleged rape of a 19-year-old hotel employee. Though the girl refused to testify and the case was later dropped, Bryant has since made a public apology, stating that although he had originally believed the act to be consensual, he now understands why the woman feels otherwise.