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Monday, July 21, 2003

Phil Taylor chimes in

There is a temptation to draw some larger moral from the Kobe Bryant story, which I feel writers should resist. Phil Taylor succumbs in this article, beginning with a story of an unnamed athlete planting an unwanted kiss on a woman in the locker room after a game:

"I don't know if that's what happened between Bryant and that young woman in the hotel room. The two of them are probably the only ones who will ever truly know whether it was sexual assault, as she says, or consensual sex, as he says. But I do know that all too often this is how it happens with sports figures and women. Bryant wouldn't be the first athlete who was unable or unwilling to recognize the difference between warmth and lust displayed by a member of the opposite sex."

The press corps, now seemingly tired of the "Kobe is better than others" angle, especially in light of his admission of adultery, is skewing things the opposite way in pieces like Taylor's, seeing Bryant as emblematic of larger ills. Neither approach is correct. Kobe is one guy, probably not so typical of the rest of the league. We don't know as yet whether he assaulted the alleged victim or not, and making Kobe some sort of poster child for bad behavior is way premature.

I know Taylor is not explicitly doing this, but the pattern of saying "We don't really know what happened with Kobe" and then going on with generalizations about the problems with athletes is just the same. Readers come away with the impression that Kobe Bryant is a bad guy who does this sort of thing. SportsCenter made the same mistake Friday night by doing a story cataloguing athletes' troubles with the law. More will power is necessary along press row.