While most celebrities are respectfully paying homage to the late NBA star Kobe Bryant, 41, who died in a helicopter crash alongside his 13-year-old daughter Sunday, one actress had another take on the tragedy.
Shortly after news broke Sunday, “Westworld” actress Evan Rachel Wood infuriated fans by tweeting, “What has happened is tragic. I am heartbroken for Kobe’s family. He was a sports hero. He was also a rapist. And all of these truths can exist simultaneously.”
Naturally, many online didn’t respond kindly to her statement and blasted the actress for being insensitive mere moments after a major tragedy.
Fans were definitely within reason to be angry after reading Wood’s tweet. After all, the incident she is referencing happened back in 2003, and Bryant, then 24, was never convicted of the crime.
At the time, Bryant was charged with “sexual assault” and “false imprisonment” and was facing life in prison, according to the Daily Beast.
The incident in question allegedly occurred on June 30, 2003. Kobe’s then 19-year-old accuser claimed the two started out consensually kissing, which led to Kobe eventually “groping” and “choking” her, not to the point where she “couldn’t breathe,” but “to the point where [she] was scared.”
However, when the trial was set to start in September 2004, Kobe’s accuser refused to testify in court and the two parties settled it as a civil matter privately. Kobe admitted to cheating on his wife at the time but maintained the incident was consensual.
Many fans thought Wood’s tweet was insensitive and a poor attempt at stealing the spotlight.
“This is an absolutely disgusting comment that reeks of white feminism, narcissism and veiled racism. You took this tragedy and made it about yourself,” one user wrote on Twitter.
Another followed up, calling out the popular “Me Too Movement” as the main problem. While the movement aims to help survivors of sexual assault, it is often criticized for painting all men as abusive.
“And this is where the Me too movement has gotten out of control… attacking a man who literally just died less than 24 hours ago, with his little girl! Was it proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he raped somebody? Did he go to jail? Was he charged,” another user tweeted.
And this is where the Me too movement has gotten out of control… attacking a man who literally just died less than 24 hours ago, with his little girl!
Was it proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that he raped somebody? Did he go to jail? Was he charged?
— Catherine C 1977🧜🏻♀️ (@KathleenC1977) January 27, 2020
After receiving major backlash, Evan Rachel Wood returned to Twitter with a second message, in an attempt to clear up what she originally meant.
“Beloveds, this was not a condemnation or a celebration. It was a reminder that everyone will have different feelings and there is room for us all to grieve together instead of fighting. Everyone has lost. Everyone will be triggered, so please show kindness and respect to all,” Wood tweeted.
However, fans weren’t letting the actress off the hook that easy.
Journalist Torraine Walker wrote, “You don’t get to cover that bullshit you did with third rate greeting card platitudes. It’s like y’all have a compulsion to shoehorn yourselves into other people’s pain and running back to victimhood when checked.”
Wood wasn’t the only one to bring up Kobe’s past rape allegations. Journalist Felicia Sonmez was suspended by the Washington Post after sharing the Daily Beast article mentioned above, which detailed the case.
The Washington Post’s managing editor Tracy Grant said Sonmez’s tweet “displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues” and is currently under review.
Sonmez defended her decision to share the article on Twitter because she believes it represented Bryant in his “totality,” even if it was posted shortly after he died.
Unlike in Evan Rachel Wood’s circumstance, many journalists spoke out defending Sonmez’s decision to cover the story from all its angles, even if it was unflattering and insensitive to the Bryants. While Wood directly called Kobe out as a “rapist,” Sonmez was reprimanded for even bringing up the allegations.
“News organizations should protect their journalists, not acquiesce to the mob when it comes for them. The Washington Post not only failed Felicia Sonmez, but set a dangerous precedent,” political reporter Olivia Nuzzi tweeted.
News organizations should protect their journalists, not acquiesce to the mob when it comes for them. The Washington Post not only failed Felicia Sonmez, but set a dangerous precedent.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) January 27, 2020