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Thursday, September 02, 2004

From the "You can get away with anything if you are a sports hero" department:

The Kobe Bryant rape case has been dismissed. Another sports hero will not see criminal justice for committing a crime. Why is it that sports heroes can get away with anything while other celebrities occasionally have to answer for their crimes?

It's like the last episode of the first season of the late, great animated series "Daria." Obnoxious cock-of-the-walk QB Tommy Sherman comes back to his Alma Mater, Lawndale High, to receive a special honor: a goalpost named in his honor. Sherman walks around insulting the current crop of football players and the less popular (including Jane and Daria) and propositioning the cheerleaders. A freak accident happens, and Sherman dies. All of the sudden, everyone's so freakin' bummed. Never mind that the guy was an asshole. Sports hero dies, everyone is bummed. It has always been this way. From Ty Cobb to OJ Simpson, people with remarkable athletic ability but who are also ethically challenged have been able to get away with just about anything.

Meanwhile, this is going to be just another reason for rape victims to be reticent about pressing charges against their attackers. I know about this from personal experience. I was raped on three different occasions. None of these rapes were especially violent...they were cases where other methods of coercion (one time I was drugged, the other two times I was under a verbal threat of my reputation being ruined one way or another if I didn't shut up and take it) were used to gain control of me. If a woman is beaten to a bloody pulp, then raped, she has a prayer of prevailing in court. If she had been drugged and the rapist's exploits been caught on tape, she could possibly prevail. In more ambiguous situations, the advantage has always been for the rapist.

I feel for the poor girl who got caught up in all this. She's going to live with this for the rest of her life. Some websites had gotten around the Rape Shield Law and published the girl's picture and name. Perhaps Kobe's defense team leaked the info, perhaps it was just the incompetence of the Eagle County DA and his staff. Regardless, her life is just about ruined. I hope she prevails in the civil trial. There is less of a burden of proof in a civil trial, and if there is any justice in the world Kobe will have to face a jury of twelve angry women there. It was in civil court that the families of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman got some measure of justice. Hopefully Kobe will be found responsible there.

This has nothing to do with Kobe's race. Just as the OJ trial should have been about a human being killing two human beings in a very brutal way, and race should have never been a part of the picture; if Kobe did stand trial he should have stood trial as a human being who might have violated another human being. I suppose the OJ trial was progress on one level: if it had happened in the Los Angeles of 1874 rather than 1994 OJ would have been rousted from his jail cell and hanged from the nearest lamppost by a racist mob. If it had happened in the South as late as 1964 it might have ended that way, with the football hero and movie star reduced to strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

But this is not Alabama or Arkansas or Mississippi in 1964, this is Eagle County, Colorado in 2004. And the person who got lynched there was a woman who dared accuse a sports hero of rape. Heaven help her, because humanity failed her.