Opinion

Was Gayle King wrong to question Kobe Bryant’s legacy? It’s complicated

He was a full human, imperfect like all of us with both good and bad.

It’s rarely a good thing when a journalist becomes a central part of a sensitive and controversial story she’s trying to tell.

Gayle King, CBS This Morning co-host, has been in the middle of firestorm over the questions she asked former WNBA star Lisa Leslie about the effect of Kobe Bryant’s 2003 sexual assault allegation on his legacy.

I've been introspective and conflicted about this controversy that has drawn a visceral reaction from thousands including social media attacks on King from rapper Snoop Dogg and others to words of support from King's friend, Oprah Winfrey.

Bryant was an amazing athlete, loved by so many during his basketball playing days and admired for his contributions after he retired. The helicopter crash that killed him, his 13-year-old daughter and the seven others on Jan. 26 is still so unbelievable and tragic.

It's wholly appropriate to mourn his death and celebrate his spectacular life at a memorial service on Feb. 24. But there's also room when discussing his legacy to raise the question about that sexual assault case. Neither cancels the other out.

I understand King’s anger that her network edited her full interview with Leslie, Kobe’s friend, down to a clip for the internet of the most salacious part. Did she go too far? Maybe. But the clip out of context was jarring and suggested that it was the center of her wide-ranging interview.

The reason this case still strikes a nerve with folks is that we live in a society that still doesn't believe rape victims. It's horrific that so many guys get away with these crimes.

We also live in a world that can vilify black men. I read the evidence in this case. There were questions, absolutely. But all we know for sure is that this case was dismissed in criminal court and settled in civil court. All of the parties appear to have moved on. Why haven’t we?

It's also a fact that King is expected by many to represent black folks. As one of the few black people leading a news program, she is expected to bear the responsibility of representing and supporting a full race of people. Of course, she should bring her unique perspective to the table and shout loud for fairness and authenticity. That's why we fight so hard for a seat at the table. But man oh man, is it fair to ask this of a black journalist and not of journalists of any other persuasion? The weight of it gets mighty heavy. I know.

And now to Snoop Dogg. He tried to pull it back and then apologized. But he indeed threatened King. There’s no getting around the words “back off (expletive) before we come and get you.” Not only was his rant misogynistic, but it’s unacceptable in this crazy world where the unhinged among us look for any reason to act.

Rapper 50 Cent — who certainly doesn’t have a stellar reputation for uplifting women — piled on the King criticism. And the likes of Bill Cosby reportedly has even had a say, from prison, where he sits convicted on three counts of drugging and sexually assaulting a woman in his home.

Women appear to be fair game for ridicule. That makes me sad. King’s now receiving death threats. She's a respected journalist with the utmost integrity and doesn't deserve that. We don't have to destroy her to preserve Bryant’s legacy.

Bottom line, I loved Kobe Bryant like millions of others around the world did — the incredible athlete who by all accounts was a terrific father, embarking on an amazing life after basketball. And I so feel for his wife, Vanessa, burying a husband and her child. I can’t shake my sadness over that. No family should go through what they are facing.

Kobe Bryant was a full human, imperfect like all of us with both good and bad. And this ugly fighting about how we grieve just denies his full humanity.

Leona Allen, Editorial Board Member. She's been at The News for 24 years, on the editorial board since 2015. She's also served as deputy managing editor for local news and other leadership positions. She was part of the Pulitzer Prize team awarded in public service for coverage of race relations at the Akron Beacon Journal.

ldallen@dallasnews.com @ldallen

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