The Two Mambas

April 13, 2016 was a historic day for basketball. On this faithful Wednesday night, the world witnessed Kobe Bryant’s last game. Tallying an impressive 60 points, four assists and one block, the “Black Mamba” solidified his legacy. At 37, Kobe leaves behind innumerable feats that revolutionized the game. The Mamba’s basketball life will certainly live in the memory of sports fans for beyond last Wednesday.

But what about the other Kobe, the one accused of sexual assault back in 2003?

Entertainers today shape culture in various ways and forms. But to what extent are entertainers shaping a rape culture? And more importantly, how should normal fans like you and I see an entertainer? Are we to completely disregard any figure with a troublesome history? Or can we separate the person from the entertainer?

In my opinion Kobe Bryant is a basketball legend—but that is it. There is nothing more that should be admired about him. The “possible” rape allegation against him automatically discredits his character. The same I believe to be true of all public figures with similar pasts. While we can address and even praise an entertainer for their contributions to culture, we must never idolize them if their character is one that benefits from perpetrating rape culture.

To be clear, Kobe’s case is a difficult one to piece together, and condemning him as an outright sexual predator would be unfair. The basketball superstar was never actually convicted of sexual assault. However, that is partly because a prosecution never took place. Instead, as is usually the case, Bryant settled outside of court providing payment for the victim’s silence, and an apology to everyone else.

While one cannot say for certain that Kobe is a sexual predator, we can assume that he greatly benefitted from being a popular and wealthy figure. What is more, his lawyer during the case notoriously painted the accuser as a liar among other inappropriate tactics. To me, that is a classic case of victim blaming on the part of Kobe’s legal team. A play that is dirty beyond imagination.

While the details of the case might be obscure, in the end, the truth is that Kobe admitted to at least cheating on his wife, while also silencing a possible victim with highly unnecessary and dirty tactics.

What is more unfortunate is the fact that this kind of behavior is quite prevalent and even expected in today’s entertainment world. Examples like Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and Woody Allen have tragically become too common. The victories or settlements of such cases ultimately show that our legal system has become too soft on the rich and famous.

But how are we, the consumers, to respond in the face of many tragic accusations? Should we remove “Bump ’N Grind” from our playlists? Are we to never watch the “Thriller” video again? Are Kobe posters no longer PC?

The scary reality is that there are too many public figures and entertainers with horrible senses of morality for us to keep track. Truly boycotting all entertainers with a troubling past would be impossible.

However that is not to say that we should just ignore every entertainer’s moral decisions. Instead, we should look at the entertainers that we individually prefer, and really judge for ourselves who we will continue to profit.

This might seem like an easy enough task, but trust me, it is not. In my own experience I have been forced to acknowledge the accusations of someone who was once an idol of mine: Patrick Kane, the American hockey superstar, who was accused of rape last summer. In an expected fashion, a New York judge ruled him innocent and he walked away free. He even played an amazing season, making his way to the top of the point-scored list, giving me fewer reasons to hate him.

After much meditation on the issue, I decided that wearing his jersey and backing his innocence was inappropriate. Today’s entertainers do not operate within the fair boundaries of the law. It is too easy for them to escape any repercussions and for their pasts to be forgotten. Until some serious legal reforms or cultural changes are made in order to help protect all victims of crimes committed by the famous and wealthy, I will abstain from purchasing merchandise associated with or promoting alleged predators. Many of us already contribute to a culture that protects predators. The last thing we should do is help them pay their legal dues.