Sorry Kobe: One Cool Tweet Does Not Make You A Cool Guy Caitlin Abber

Here are some fun facts:

In 2003, Kobe Bryant was accused of rape by a maid at a Colorado hotel. Bryant denied the accusation of rape, but admitted to having a consensual sexual encounter with the woman. The woman was unwilling to testify on the stand, the case never went to trial, and was settled outside of court. Bryant apologized, but never admitted wrong doing. He went on to become one of the most beloved and highest paid athletes in the country, with a net worth of $52million in 2012. 

In April 2011, Bryant was caught on camera using a homophobic slur when he received a foul for a play.  Bryant apologized for what he did, and was fined $100,000 by the NBA for his actions.

A few days ago, Bryant responded to a tweet from a fan who called another fan gay on Twitter.

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Let’s ignore the fact that Bryant used the incorrect “your” (the fan who said you’re gay used the right one – go figure), and talk about what this kind of evolution means. Is it just a nice PR move, or does it make Bryant a cool guy again?

Anyone who follows a celebrity on Twitter knows that celebrities often get literally hundreds of replies to their tweets. Some of those are from super fans, who say things like, “OMG I swear we are related. I have the same shirt! Can we please get froyo soon?!” to people who are mean, vulgar, racist, sexist, and just plain stupid. Whether a celeb is actually tweeting for themselves or having a PR person do it for them (this is usually the case), they have to choose which replies to respond to, if any. Most replies go ignored, with the exception of a few that really stand out. So they question is, what was it about this tweet that made Bryant (or his assistant), decide to reply?

In our age of celebrity saturation and media overflow, being a regular human who makes mistakes is becoming an increasingly tough lot. That said, when someone chooses to enter into the world of constant surveillance and criticism – aka being a prominent celebrity, they are taking on a role that encompasses far more than just doing their job. They have to be a role model, they have to endorse things they don’t actually care about, they have to be smart about their every decision, and for the sake of their careers, they have to say and do things they don’t want to do. I’m not saying that Bryant did not actually care about the “you’re gay” tweet, but on the totem pole of things he has to worry about on a daily basis, this little blip in the Twittersphere is hardly a pimple on his giant, 6′ 6” back. I mean, if you’ve ever gone to a sporting event, you know that for every hot dog sold, some bro calls another bro gay. This may be 2013, but athletic events all still take place in 1950s. It sucks, but it’s undeniably true: The seasons go round and round, and the over-paid players jump up and down. We are captive in a carousel of jerks.

What Bryant does care about is forgiveness. He wants his fans to love him, and he wants to acquire new fans through good PR. He wants to win back his image, and his endorsements. Let’s not conflate this to be anything more than what it is: a simple layup.

While celebs have been finding tiny PR opportunities since forever, it is sort of nice when they really take responsibility for their actions. It shows they understand not only the severity of what they did, but also who they are and what they represent to their fans. Michael Vick is a great example. It is very easy to hate routine animal abuser Michael Vick. However, he has not only apologized and repented for what he did, he has also spent a significant amount of time campaigning for animal rights and educating other people about the cruelty of dog fighting. This doesn’t make him James Herriot or Jane Goodall, but it does mean that he is doing something meaningful offline, and working towards his recovery as a human and a role model. Sure, this could just be (and certainly is) a PR move as well, but it is one that requires a bit more effort that 140 misspelled characters and good timing.

Image via LATimes

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  1. It certainly doesn’t wash away his mistakes, but it is a positive if minor move in the right direction. Here’s hoping for more of the same from him.

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