King Kaufman's Sports Daily

Yes, Kobe Bryant is innocent until proven guilty. That's how it's supposed to work. And what was that girl doing there? The readers weigh in.

By Salon Staff

Published July 22, 2003 7:00PM (EDT)

Here's some advice that'll be good for the next year or two: If you're ever feeling lonely, write a column about the Kobe Bryant rape case. I did that Monday and my in box has been hopping like the receiver on a cartoon telephone since the moment of publication.

Readers had so many interesting things to say that I'm mostly going to stay out of the way and let them speak, though I will chime in here and there.

What was she doing there?

I usually agree with your points but I think you have purposely avoided the big question everyone wants to know. Why was a 19-year-old concierge in, around or even thinking about being in Kobe Bryant's room at midnight? What exactly was she doing knocking on his door? Couldn't be guest services, they have an entire housekeeping staff 24/7 to address those issues. Certainly couldn't be room service. Well, at least not the kind that involves a menu. There are also reports from staff in the kitchen that this "naive" 19-year-old practically begged to take Kobe dinner earlier that evening. She seems to have been dying to see him.

-- Danny Vigil

Danny: I did avoid that question because I don't think it's relevant, even a little bit. I don't think there's any mystery what she was doing going to his room at that hour and it wasn't to perform the duties of her job. Whether she went there intending to have sex with him only she knows, but clearly she went there on a social, boy-girl type visit. There's no other reason to go. He can meet her in the lobby or the lounge or out by the pool if she just wants to chat or get an autograph.

However, having knocked on his door, she's guilty of nothing more than perhaps poor judgment. She has every right to go to his room, even if she did intend to have sex. If at any time she decided she didn't want to have sex, that's her right. She doesn't give up her rights because she doesn't make the smartest personal choices. No really does mean no, and the victim in a rape case, no matter what she did, really didn't "ask for it."

Asking what she was doing in his room is like asking what a robbery victim was doing in a bad neighborhood. Whatever he was doing, it doesn't excuse the person who rolled him.

Presumed innocent

So the accuser's context and life story is irrelevant ("she'd been rushed to the hospital because of a drug overdose, just like thousands of other people every year who don't falsely accuse anyone of rape") but Kobe's is fair game ("he's a 24-year-old multimillionaire basketball superstar, a subset of society that has quite a reputation for dogging women and is not used to being denied, sexually or any other way"). Really? Just like thousands of other athletes every year who don't go around raping people.

Why is one presumption of guilt worse than the other? The point should be (and I DO recognize this was your main thesis, it was just poorly conveyed and realized) not that we should presume Kobe guilty, but that all defendants/alleged victims should be afforded the same basic right to be presumed innocent.

-- Pat McDevitt

As a lawyer, people keep asking my opinion of what happened as if I'm more likely to have been omniscient on that night and tuned to that station than they were. It's ridiculous, I agree. But the conclusion, that more of the public should be willing to assume guilt than currently seem to, goes against the spirit of our system. The presumption of innocence given Kobe by virtue of his celebrity is promised to every defendant but rarely delivered. We should be trying to lift every defendant to the standard of presumed innocence Kobe is enjoying, not reduce him to the sorry treatment most defendants receive.

-- Eulas G. Boyd

First of all, I understand completely the knee-jerk reaction to the "Kobe is innocent" mantra. He is being assumed innocent by a lot of people. Of course, when you say we shouldn't give him the benefit of the doubt, that's a little different. I thought the whole point of our justice system -- and by extension, all us citizens who live under it -- was to give the benefit of the doubt to anybody not yet convicted. Maybe the wrong we commit too often is that we assume the local guy accused of whatever crime did it, just because he looks like a troublemaker to us. Maybe benefit of the doubt is something we need more of, not less. That doesn't go so far as assuming the accuser is always a harpy out for cash; in my case, it just means keeping an open mind.

-- Eric Musall

Pat, Eulas and Eric: I admire and agree with your sentiments that celebrities' getting a real presumption of innocence from juries is the way it ought to be. I'm not saying it's bad for juries to give celebrities the benefit of the doubt. Of course everyone should get the benefit of the doubt and the presumption of innocence from a jury.

But we, out here in TV-land, aren't the jury. We're under no obligation to give Bryant the presumption of innocence. We're free to presume whatever we want, and that's exactly what we do. What I'm saying is the fact that we presume innocence for Bryant and other celebrities, and presume vile motives for people like his accuser, is indicative of something I don't think is healthy, which is the veneration of celebrities, the admiration of them, that flies in the face of all logic and evidence.

Pro and con

I'm a young black woman and thanks for writing that article on the Kobe Bryant "business."

Richard Nixon?! Wow, that's some life you live. I mean that's kinky!

-- Unsigned

Gee, I was hoping people would wait for the trial, but you journalists have to eat, I suppose. Maybe you should give what you earn for this article to a rape crisis center. Thought of that?

-- Patricia Schwarz

You don't understand rape. Rape is a crime of violence. Thus, knowing (or not knowing) Kobe sexually has nothing to do with a person's ability to attempt to ascertain his guilt. This is not a matter of sexuality.

-- Unsigned

Say it ain't so

I've been a fan of Kobe for as long as I've been a fan of basketball. With all of my heart I want him to be innocent. He may well be "proven" innocent after the case goes to trial. I want to believe that she came to his room and agreed to have sex. I want to believe that this 19-year-old girl then changed her mind, mortgaged her vast potential, and seized the opportunity to cash in on an obliteration of the most saintly player in the sport. I want so badly to believe all of this, but something isn't letting me.

-- Kirk Woll

None of us know until the evidence comes in. Was there bruising? Were her clothes torn? If so, what was the chain of custody of those clothes? And so on. But one thing we did learn was that Kobe is a colossal hypocrite. It's none of my business if you want to cheat on your wife, but stay off the soapbox preaching fidelity and undying love for the Mrs. But your point is well taken -- we REALLY don't know these guys despite what we think.

-- Dave Perez

The media

Having been in the music business for over 20 years I have seen women go to any lengths to sleep with someone famous and then because they are deluded, they get upset, very upset, when the famous person doesn't call them or care about them and was only in it for a one-nighter.

In this case, no matter what the woman says, there is money to be made and some people will do anything for money. Anything. This woman will never be more famous than now, even if she had managed to get into "American Idol," and probably loves the idea that her friends will think Kobe dug her enough to "rape" her. Just couldn't control himself.

Indeed, after splitting up with her boyfriend she might want to show him what's what. And indeed if she is white, there is a whole other layer of black-white sex to be considered and here we are back to the old days when the missus accused the black gardener (who rejected her advances) of rape. I don't believe Kobe Bryant did it but I am sure the media will be fascinated with all the aspects of it as it involves a big black god and his sexual antics.

-- Leigh Blake

Your latest column was horrible. Usually I enjoy reading your work. You would have been well advised to stop after you had established the point that we the public know nothing and should therefore assume neither guilt not innocence -- even if we have been given an impression of an athlete by the media. (Although I would like to point out that defendants in our system are supposed to be presumed innocent.)

Who are you to comment on the nature of human sexuality? Do you really think it is hard for the sports-watching public to imagine a "hero" committing horrible acts of indiscretion?

This, unlike many sports-related issues, is a serious matter. Do us all a favor and stick to "real" issues like why umpires are afraid of cameras judging their performances.

-- Jake Frechette

As the aunt of a young woman who was raped by two men while she was in college (and did not report it), I wanted to say thank you for your column. One of the reasons that many women don't report rape is because of the horrible way the media covers these stories. I have no idea what really happened (that's what courts are supposed to be for) and already the media is reporting on every dirty little detail they can find or make up about this young woman. I saw Charles Barkley (the chauvinist pig of the century) on ESPN say, "I don't judge people on who they sleep with. Kobe's job is to play basketball." I wanted to throw something through my TV.

-- Name withheld

The night he was accused one of the local (Albany, N.Y.) newscasts was out at a pizza shop asking people if they thought Kobe was innocent or guilty! Now how the hell would people in a pizza place in Albany, N.Y., think they'd have any idea of what went on in that hotel room? One of the people they asked was a 10-year-old girl! It made me sad to think she'd even know what we were talking about at that age. Why she should have an opinion on his guilt or innocence is beyond me.

Like you, I think it's extremely suspicious that he seemed to be denying the whole thing -- but being pretty Clintonian about it, if you know what I mean, leaving himself a pathway out -- until suddenly he's announcing that he did commit adultery, but it was consensual adultery. Oh, good, he can still be a role model for my 10-year-old boy now!

I know that Kobe is innocent until proven guilty. But let's not decide he's innocent no matter what.

-- Stephen J. Smith

There doesn't seem to be what I would label a "smear campaign" against the alleged victim (yet), but in lieu of actual evidence, the 24-hour cable news channels seem to get off on arguing about weird hypotheticals. I saw two guests on Wolf Blitzer's show vociferously debating the nature of consent by speculating whether a jury would interpret the woman showing up at Kobe's room "buck naked" would imply consent. They were so into it, I, for a moment, wondered whether that was a rumored fact of the case. If that isn't enough, Wolf brought up the same idea the next day, with a different guest. It's just creepy.

-- Michael Rudd

Like you, I am sickened how star-struck the majority of our society get. I saw the "Today" show today, and was angered about how much of this young woman's mental health is already coming out, and she hasn't even had her day in court and they are already casting doubt on her as a person as if to say, "See this is a drama queen," as if drama queens can't be raped or just because she has mild depression she must be making everything up.

I was raised in Philly and I was (am) a big fan of Kobe, but I refuse to give him the benefit of the doubt. I mean, show me that you're innocent, buddy. Anyone can cry if they're facing jail time.

-- Mauricio Martinez

Kobe's apology

While I agree with almost all of your observations about why things do not, at least preliminarily, look good for Kobe, there is one observation that I disagree with, although it did strike me at first:

"First, he hurt his credibility, an incredibly valuable resource in a he said-she said trial, by denying everything, or at least hinting at a denial, until he was charged, when he suddenly and tearfully admitted to 'adultery.' Could his embarrassing public apology to his wife be seriously considered anything other than spin? If the apology were genuinely about her, wouldn't it already have taken place, and in private?"

I thought exactly the same thing initially. Then I began to think like the lawyer I supposedly am. It is standard practice for lawyers to tell their clients to keep quiet unless there is an absolute need not to. Even assuming Kobe is innocent, there would be no need for him to admit to any kind of consensual encounter prior to charges being filed. If the D.A. decided not to bring charges, that would be the end of the matter. Why then admit to consensual sex until one has heard what the D.A. has to say and there remained a chance of everything going away?

In fact, if Kobe were guilty, that means he more than anyone knows what the evidence against him is, and the smart thing would have been to preempt the D.A. and admit to consensual sex beforehand, knowing that he would eventually have to cop to it anyway. Either way, I don't think his silence until charges were filed necessarily implies anything negative, though I agree that it appears to have been a public relations fiasco (as often is the case when lawyers are in charge).

-- Zafar Sobhan

Zafar: I wouldn't expect Bryant to say anything before he's charged. What I meant was that his tearful mea culpa, his agonized public apology to his wife, whose hand he clutched throughout his press conference, was pure showbiz. Does he need to call a press conference to apologize to his wife? Beyond a simple statement denying the rape charge and apologizing to his fans and teammates for letting them down by foolishly putting himself in a position to be accused, everything is spin.

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