Kobe Bryant has been dropped from the jury of the Animation Is Film Festival, following an online protest over his 2003 rape allegation.
Bryant won an Academy Award this year for his animated short film, “Dear Basketball.” He was scheduled to serve on the jury for the animation festival, which will be held this weekend at the TCL Chinese Theatres.
“After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury,” said Eric Beckman, CEO of GKIDS, the independent animation distributor that produces the event. “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.”
A petition was posted on Change.org last week, urging the festival to remove Bryant from the jury. Variety is one of the sponsors of the event, along with the Annecy International Animation Film Festival and ASIFA Hollywood.
“This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women,” the petition states. “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.”
Bryant was arrested in 2003 and charged with sexually assaulting an employee of a Colorado hotel. The charges were later dropped when the woman refused to testify, and Bryant publicly apologized to her.
In his own statement, Bryant said he was disappointed by the decision.
“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.”