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Sports View: Kobe Bryant: Felon or philanderer?

July 1, 1993

NBA superstar and Nike, McDonald’s, Spalding and Sprite pitch man, Kobe Bryant, has been charged with felony sexual assault in Eagle, Colo.. Bryant claims his innocence, but District Attorney Mark Hurlbert says he “can prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt.”

At age 24, Bryant is at the top of his game. He is polite and intelligent. He was considered the perfect role model for young children (emphasis on was). So what happened?

Bryant was in Colorado for knee surgery. A 19-year-old, blonde-haired young woman claims Bryant forced her to engage in sexual relations with him in his hotel room. He says she consented. He claims he is only guilty of adultery (Thus, the philanderer label).

Now about the felon part. A conviction on the charge carries a prison sentence of four years to life and a $750,000 fine. Hurlbert said no talk of a plea bargain has happened. What Hurlbert did not say is the favorite phrase of lawyers everywhere: “AT THIS TIME.”

I firmly believe that a plea bargain agreement will be made to spare Bryant from jail time. His attorney, Pamela Mackey, will convince the alleged victim to change her version of the events for a healthy piece of change. Money talks, something else walks, and the world goes round.

Sorry if that sound too cynical, but hush money has a way of clouding ones’ memory. If the case goes to trial, look for the jury to come down with a severe case of O.J. Simpson-itis. The facts will not matter. Bryant’s celebrity status and money will probably produce a verdict of not guilty or, at least, a hung jury. Even if Bryant avoids a prison term, his reputation will be tarnished. Endorsements will dry up and fan support will erode.

Sadly, there will always be a small percentage of morons who will continue to worship their sports heroes regardless of their behavior. Michael Jordan is an inveterate gambler. Most Jordan fans ignored that tragic character flaw because he was a great player. Dennis “The Worm” Rodman could rebound and defend, so it didn’t matter to his fans that he dressed as a woman and painted his hair with Krylon. As a role model, Rodman was a pitifully poor choice. Yet, countless kids wore Rodman’s Bulls’ jersey a few years back. Unlike Rodman, Bryant can actually play basketball, and his skills will serve him well for several years to come. He may have to wear the uniform of the Colorado Department of Corrections CONS team, however. The CONS have nothing to do with Converse shoes, the NBA, ESPN or the L.A. Lakers. Bryant’s potential new teammates/bunkmates might be murderers, bank robbers, tax evaders, drug dealers, kidnappers, wife beaters and other assorted hooligans. Gee, that sounds a little like an NBA team after all!

Chuck Martin is a Byron resident who has coached baseball and who has an interest in sports.

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