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Kobe Bryant dropped from film festival over 2003 rape allegation after #MeToo protest petition

Former NBA player and Academy Award winner Kobe Bryant was dropped from the Animation Is Film Festival due a 2003 rape allegation against him. (Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/AFP/Getty Images)

Former NBA star and animated filmmaker Kobe Bryant was dropped from a film festival after some protested his inclusion due to a 2003 rape allegation, according to ESPN.

Bryant was set to serve on the jury of the animated film festival "Animation Is Film," but his removal was announced Wednesday.

"After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury," said Eric Beckman, founder of the company GKIDS which organizes the festival. "We are a young organization and it is important to keep our collective energies focused on the films, the participating filmmakers, and our festival attendees."

An online petition had been putting pressure on the festival to separate itself from Bryant.

"In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant's actions of sexual assault," the petition read. "We demand that GKIDS, Variety, & Annecy revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity."

What did Bryant say about the decision?

Bryant, who surely hoped to have moved past the controversy over a 15-year-old allegation, expressed disappointment in the decision but did not specifically address the allegation or speak ill of the company.

"This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry," Bryant said in a statement. "I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation."

About the allegation

Bryant, when he was still an NBA player, was accused of rape by a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. Bryant acknowledged that he had sex with the woman, but maintained that it was consensual.

The accuser refused to testify against Bryant, so the case was dropped and a civil suit was settled out of court between Bryant and his accuser, while Bryant still maintained his innocence.

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