Is it safe to speak the truth about Kobe?
Since the sudden, tragic death of Kobe Bryant two weeks ago, I've thought of the many men who, in just the past three years, have had their careers and reputations destroyed or seriously stained by allegations of sexual harassment or assault.
Among them: Actors Scott Baio, Gerard Depardieu, Morgan Freeman. In TV, Tavis Smiley, Les Moonves, Matt Lauer. Noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, famous chef Mario Batali, opera star Placido Domingo. Minnesota Senator/comedian Al Franken was forced to resign over harassment allegations.
Some accusations are of alleged acts decades old.
Guilty as alleged? Who knows? But the accusations will chase them the rest of their lives.
Thus I wonder what their thoughts are on the instant and continuing posthumous deification of Bryant.
Two weeks after Bryant's death, it's still considered outrageously inappropriate to publicly state what we do know: He had a flip side. In 2003 he was forced to essentially admit his actions were unwelcomed by the 19-year-old who accused him of rape.
Already a seven-year-pro, Bryant, in Colorado for physical rehab, was arrested after a teenage hotel/spa worker claimed he raped her. Bryant, married, admitted to having had sex with her but by mutual consent.
The criminal case was dropped by prosecutors, when the accuser chose not to testify. The civil case was settled out of court, as Bryant reached a financial agreement with his accuser. But Bryant was bound to make the following statement, which began with:
"First, I want to apologise to the young woman involved in this incident. I want to apologise to her for my behaviour that night and the consequences she has suffered in the last year."
And concluded with:
"Although I truly believe this encounter was consensual, I recognise now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.
"After months of reviewing discovery, listening to her lawyer, and even her testimony in person, I now understand she feels that she did not consent to this encounter."
Yes, just a misunderstanding. But his prepared, lawyers-approved statement was read and heard as Bryant's admission to an unwanted sexual episode.
But then he just walked away from it. He wasn't even suspended by the NBA. He returned to the Lakers and thunderous applause and to Nike to sell expensive, cheaply made Kobe-model sneakers.
And two Sundays after his death, it's still considered a mortal, low-down, dirty sin to even hint at such a truth about a newly deceased NBA superstar. It just doesn't fit Bryant's coast-to-coast canonisation. And if you dare tell this truth, look out below!
His non-consensual sex victim? Why would anyone care about her? Close your eyes and ears. No, tighter.
And if it's highly improper to bring up that rape case, no one will even care to recall Bryant's $100,000 fine in 2011 for calling an NBA ref a slur for homosexuals.
Of course, if you don't worry about what you're called - Harry Truman: "I don't care what they call me as long as it's not true" - or if you have a greater regard for the truth than stir-and-serve myth, you wait until you're no longer able to keep the lid on a blunt, boiling truth.
So here it is: Kobe Bryant was a great basketball player who loved his kids. Many of us have half of that covered. But he was not what he has become - what the nation and most media insisted he become - since Jan 26.
For added madness, CBS' Gayle King was livid that CBS chose to focus on her on-air reference to Bryant's rape case. Yep, she was caught pursuing the truth.
This article was originally published by the New York Post and reproduced with permission