Kobe Bryant will not be serving on the jury at the 2018 Animation Is Film Festival. The basketball legend and Oscar-winning producer has been removed from the jury by festival organizers following a petition seeking his removal over a 2003 rape allegation. Variety, the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, and ASIFA Hollywood serve as sponsors of the event.
“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.”
An online petition was launched on Change.org last week urging the Animation Is Film Festival to pull Bryant from the jury. Bryant was accused of rape in the summer of 2003 by a hotel employee. The athlete was married at the time and admitted to having an adulterous sexual encounter with the employee, but he denied the sexual assault allegation. The case was dropped by prosecutors after the accuser refused to testify at a September 2004 trial.
“In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant’s actions of sexual assault,” the petition stated. “We demand that GKIDS, Variety, & Annecy revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity.”
Bryant reacted to the festival’s decision in a statement to Variety. “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,” he 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.”
Bryant won an Oscar earlier this year as the producer of the short film “Dear Basketball,” but he was denied admission into the Academy earlier this year because of the rape allegation. The 2018 Animation Is Film Festival takes place this weekend at the TCL Chinese Theaters in Hollywood.