Sport

The elephant in the room with changing NBA logo to Kobe Bryant

Kyrie Irving continues to push for the NBA to change its logo to Kobe Bryant. An online petition to change the logo to Bryant has more than 3 million signatures. What initially seemed like a coping mechanism/unrealistic idea in the aftermath of Bryant’s tragic and sudden death, the Kobe-logo movement has newfound momentum more than a year later.

Supporters laud Bryant’s determination, work ethic and influence. Those qualities are absolutely part of Bryant’s legacy. But they’re only part of the story.

Bryant – by his own admission – had sex with a woman who didn’t view it as consensual.

I avoided mentioning that in my previous posts about changing the logo to Bryant. I just noted changing the logo didn’t seem like a good idea and moved on without much elaboration. I didn’t think it was worth relitigating his transgressions in this discussion, which I figured would fade quickly.

But if this conversation is going to happen – and Irving, backed by millions of followers, insists it should – Colorado should be part of it.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. People shouldn’t be judged by only their worst deeds. However, misdeeds shouldn’t just be swept under the rug, either.

And what Bryant admitted to doing was especially heinous.

Looking back, it is absolutely insane his statement worked to end the saga. Society just accepted it as an unfortunate misunderstanding. He thought it was consensual. She didn’t. Oops. Thankfully, we have made significant progress in our handling of these issues.

But there’s more work to be done, and uncritically making Bryant the NBA logo would interrupt it. At the very minimum, his rape admission should be thoughtfully considered among other noteworthy aspects of his life before making him the literal face of the league.

To me, the NBA hit the right note by naming All-Star MVP after Bryant. He thrived on the All-Star stage and died shortly before the 2020 All-Star game. In that venue, it’s easier to contextualize that award as about Bryant’s admirable qualities – basketball greatness, competitiveness, and comfort under bright lights. I do believe it’s reasonable to honor people, despite their flaws, for the good they did.

The logo just feels different. When representing all of the league, it connects to all of Bryant. And when viewing all of Bryant, it’s impossible to ignore his absolutely reprehensible incident.

Maybe this feels so thorny because the issue wasn’t properly adjudicated at the time.

Criminal charges were dropped when the accuser – facing disgusting backlash – refused to cooperate with prosecutors. Yes, Bryant paid a settlement and lost some sponsorships. But he resumed his NBA career, turned back into an endorsement force and remained beloved. He even won an Academy Award at the #MeToo Oscars!

If both Bryant and his accuser had their days in court in a fair justice system, a verdict could have allowed Bryant to move on, even if that meant serving a sentence. I believe in rehabilitation and allowing people to live freely after suitable accountability.

However Bryant personally grappled with what happened, he shared little publicly. He went on a marketing campaign to change his image. Bryant also, by all accounts, became a great father of his daughters. He was a staunch supporter of girls and women’s basketball. Those things matter, too.

At what point should we move on? It’s not fair for Bryant, even posthumously, to now bear more than his share of the brunt of correcting a system that doesn’t take seriously enough women who experience sexual misconduct.

In some ways, this is silly. We’re debating the sanctity of the NBA logo! There are far more important issues than these symbols. And I cringe at myself for feeling All-Star MVP is suitable but the league logo is a bridge too far. Admittedly, I have a hard time explaining the difference other than that’s just how I feel.

But when Irving says things like “Anyone that’s come into the league should know that that’s the example that was set,” it sends a message.

We should at least thoughtfully consider the example Bryant set – all of it – before so widely endorsing it.