Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant may have an Oscar to show for his and director Glen Keane’s animated short film “Dear Basketball,” but he won’t be granted entry into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Individuals who win an Academy Award or are nominated for one are often considered for inclusion in the organization, which numbered more than 8,000 members at most recent count. Bryant was considered as well, and the Academy’s Short Films and Feature Animation branch actually voted in the affirmative to admit him into the branch.
However, the Academy’s governors committee overruled the decision and rescinded the invitation, Variety has confirmed. Though the branch, through governor Bill Kroyer, argued that Bryant has expressed a desire to work in the short films space, the committee felt the Los Angeles Lakers legend needed to show evidence of a larger career in the field before being allowed to represent it as a member of the organization.
The Academy has been criticized of late for a perceived lowering of standards in its increasingly robust invite lists, which have been bullish on inclusion and diversity following a few years of #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Some have argued that a number of recent invitees have not amassed a career deserving of an Academy invite, but this marks a rather high-profile example of the organization, at least outwardly, maintaining a focus on those standards, regardless of celebrity.
Indeed, Bryant’s name would have no doubt been a bold-faced one on the group’s upcoming list of invites. But it may also have been a lightning rod in the wake of the Me Too movement and Time’s Up initiative. It already was last year, in the thick of Oscar season, when more than 17,000 individuals signed a petition demanding that Bryant be stripped of his “Dear Basketball” Oscar nomination on the grounds of his 2003 sexual assault case. (That case was dropped after Bryant’s accuser refused to testify, and he later settled a civil suit out of court.)
Bryant and Keane ultimately won the prize. Columnists called the occasion everything from a “controversy” to a “tragedy.”
The Academy did not respond to a request for comment. The organization’s Board of Governors has final approval of the invitations and could theoretically overrule the committee’s decision at its scheduled monthly meeting on Saturday, but that is highly unlikely at this stage. The final list will be unveiled on Monday.
News of Bryant’s rescinded Academy invitation was first reported by Cartoon Brew.