Retired NBA star Kobe Bryant has been removed from this weekend’s Animation Is Film Festival days after an online petition protesting his appointment over his 2003 rape allegation surfaced online.
“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, founder of the Animation Is Film Festival and CEO of GKIDS, in a statement to The Times on Wednesday.
“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.”
The festival, now in its second year, begins Friday at the TCL Chinese Theatres in Los Angeles and runs throughout the weekend.
Bryant earned an Academy Award with animator Glen Keane earlier this year for adapting the superstar’s farewell poem into an animated short film called “Dear Basketball.”
Bryant’s ouster came after a Change.org petition from women and allies of the animation community began circulating last week and called on festival organizers and the AIF sponsors (GKIDS, Variety and Annecy) to drop the star and producer of “Dear Basketball.”
Petitioners argued that keeping 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.”
As of Wednesday, more than 140 people had signed it (the goal was set for 200 signatures).
The former Lakers star expressed his disappointment in a statement issued to festival sponsor Variety but vowed to stay focused on “changing the world in positive ways.”
“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.”
Bryant was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a woman in 2003, but the following year, just days before his trial was set to begin, the charges were dropped when the woman refused to testify. Bryant also issued a public apology to her.
The allegation has loomed over the NBA star’s legacy and called into question his worthiness of an Academy Award early this year when many in and out of Hollywood reassessed their values following the Harvey Weinstein scandal and ascent of the #MeToo movement.
A rep for Bryant did not immediately respond to the Los Angeles Times’ request for comment.
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.