The internet exploded yesterday proving yet again that middle ground in this country is eroding faster than the polar ice caps. CBS This Morning posted a clip of an interview that the show’s anchor Gayle King had conducted with former WNBA player Lisa Leslie about the passing of her close friend Kobe Bryant.
Although the interview touched on a myriad of topics, the promotional clip on Twitter highlighted the part of the interview where King asked Leslie about the rape allegations made against Bryant nearly 20 years ago. “It’s been said that his legacy is complicated … Is it complicated for you, as a woman, as a WNBA player?” In a move that was out of character for her, King took to Twitter to take her employer to task for posting the clip.
“Unbeknownst to me, my network put up a clip from a very wide-ranging interview,” she said. [It was] “totally out of context and when you see it that way, it’s very jarring. I’ve been advised to say nothing, just let it go. ‘People will drag you, people will troll you. It will be over in a couple of days.’ But that’s not good enough for me because I really want people to understand what happened here.”
Criticism came in at 5G speed from all corners of the globe. Serial rapist, black philanthropist and ex-America’sTop Dad, Bill Cosby even weighed in from behind bars.
“It’s so sad and disappointing that successful Black Women are being used to tarnish the image and legacy of successful Black Men, even in death,” Cosby, 82, wrote. “Are these people that are in need of fame, ratings and/or money? On behalf of myself, Camille and my family, thank you, thank you and thank you. My heartfelt prayers are with Kobe and his family, as well as with Michael Jackson and his family. May their legacies live on forever.”
Even worse, rapper Snoop Dogg took to Twitter with a profanity laced rant and a threat aimed at King for her line of questioning.
“Gayle King, out of pocket for that s–t, way out of pocket. What do you gain from that? I swear to God, we the worst, we the f–king worst. We expect more from you, Gayle, don’t you hang out with Oprah? Why you all attacking us, we your people. You ain’t coming after f–king Harvey Weinstein asking him dumb-ass questions. I get sick of you all … I wanna call you one … Funky, dog-haired bitch, how dare you try and tarnish my motherf–king homeboy’s reputation, punk motherf–ker. Respect the family and back off, bitch, before we come get you.”
All of this on the same day that President Trump used the National Prayer Breakfast to take shots at his adversaries while basking in the afterglow of his impeachment trial acquittal by the Senate.
“I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong,” said Trump. “Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you’ when they know that that’s not so. So many people have been hurt, and we can’t let that go on. And I’ll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House.”
Could it be possible that these two things are actually related?
Snoop Dogg in his hate laced tirade is no different than a second amendment loving white supremacist draped in Red, White and Blue calling for all the “others” to go back from where they came from, before we come get you. The only difference is that he is doing this draped in Purple and Gold in defense of Number 24 instead of Number 45.
Cosby sounds like Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham who see any criticism or questioning of Trump as an attack on the Republican Party in general no matter how specific, true, justified or relevant the criticism or question is for Trump; just as Cosby sees anything that takes away from the storybook mythology of Kobe Bryant as an attack on black men in general.
President Trump is such a polarizing figure that he has successfully created literal poles in the country - those for him and those against him. While the stock market and GDP may not have suffered under his administration, the GDI has plummeted - General Decorum Index. We just aren’t as nice to one another as we were before he came on the scene. And, since he has slipped through the grasp of those who are against him so many times, I believe that many have turned their frustration, anger and ire towards one another and against issues that crop up in our country - creating a cancel culture.
This is just one of those things that easily allows for and even calls for people to choose sides and even call for Gayle King to be castigated or cancelled from the culture.
In the Information Age, it is becoming increasingly hard for us as human beings to hold two opposing or contrasting thoughts in our head about one thing at the same time.
Like Dave Chappelle said in his Netflix comedy special about the aforementioned Cosby, “He rapes and he saves.” Human beings are complex. We aren’t monolithic. We aren’t all good and we aren’t all bad. All of us are a mixture of both, it’s all about the degree and the mix of both that is important.
Cosby was a serial rapist during the same period of time that he gave tens of millions of dollars to black colleges and almost singlehandedly lifted the collective cultural conscious of black America through his sitcom, the Cosby Show - in many ways paving the path for Barack Obama to become the first black president. Yes he did all of that at the same time.
Kobe Bryant was accused of rape in 2003. Did he rape the woman? I don’t know. None of us do. There’s only person left on the planet that really knows what happened that night. As much as many folks don’t want to recognize or deal with that part of his legacy, it exists. Although it doesn’t define him, it is a part of him.
However, I believe that it is a part of him that actually helped to define who he would become it its wake- a fantastic father of four females.
After the case was dropped, Bryant issued an apology that goes much further than most public statements go in these types of cases.
“Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual,” he said in a statement, “I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did.”
In my mind’s eye I would have loved for Lisa Leslie to have answered King’s question something like this,
“His legacy isn’t complicated for me because of that. I don’t know what happened that night and its not important for me to know. The thing that I do know is that he was forever changed after that and because of all that he went through he became a better husband, he was better prepared to be the best father he could be to his four daughters and most importantly he became a better person.”
But unfortunatley, that’s not the kind of nuanced middle ground response that people are interested in giving or hearing these days. Redemption is something that seems to only exists on Disney +: Cartoons, Marvel, ESPN (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) and movies.
Ironically, the second act of Kobe’s storybook careers was as a storyteller. To me, his is a story of true redemption. Sadly, Twitter, Cosby and Snoop and their ilk only want us to focus on the end of the story, not the uncomfortable and taboo things that sometimes fuel self reflection and self doubt leading to a redemptive journey towards that fairy book ending we all crave. Which again is ironic, because the struggle is at the heart of Kobe’s Mamba Mentality.
Like it or not, the “alleged rape” is not only part of Kobe’s legacy but it was also a part of his struggle which invariably helped to build the man that many are mourning today.