Kobe Bryant

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Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant has had plenty to smile about. In 1996, he was drafted right out of high school becoming the youngest player to play in an NBA game. Bryant went on to prove himself on the court both offensively and defensively. In his game against the Minnesota Timberwolves he suffered a knee injury causing him to have surgery. After his arthroscopic surgery on June 30, 2003, he sought medical treatment at The Cordillera Lodge and Spa in Colorado. Two days after his arrival a nineteen-year-old hotel employee reported to the local police that Bryant had sexually assaulted her in his room. Although he turned himself in three days later, admitting to adultery, he was released on a twenty-five thousand dollar bond. Bryant, pleading guilty to sexual assault, says he had consensual sex with the women. If convicted, he would face four years to life in prison, twenty years in probation, and a fine up to seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

His case was both trailed as a criminal and civil case with similar outcomes.

The woman who accused Kobe Bryant of sexual assault first decided to go ahead with a criminal case because she feared that the release of court documents about her sex life threatened her chances of getting a fair hearing in a civil lawsuit. In the criminal case, Bryant's lawyers weren't able force her to sit down and answer personal questions and her medical and psychological records weren't fair game. The accuser's lawsuit accuses Bryant of attacking her in his room at the Cordillera resort, causing her emotional and physical problems. For months, prosecutors insisted they had a strong enough case to win a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, on the will of the accuser, prosecutors dropped the case after spending at least two hundred thousand dollars to prepare for trial. His accuser decided to go ahead with the civil lawsuit instead of the criminal because she had chosen not to testify.

The accuser filed a civil lawsuit seeking monetary damages from the Los Angeles Lakers star. A civil lawsuit requires a lower standard of proof, not having to prove that the crime was committed beyond reasonable doubt. The attorneys for the woman asked for compensatory damages of at least seventy-five thousand dollars, with punitive damages decided later. The civil lawsuit accuses Bryant of sexually assaulting the woman in his room, causing her emotional and physical problems. In order to win the case the accuser's lawyers needed to prove with the evidence that Bryant forced himself on her causing injury. Since the accuser filed a civil case it made it easier for Bryant's lawyers to prove that she was out for money. His lawyers believed that she was not only seeking money but she was also seeking the attention of a former boyfriend. Since the criminal case was dropped and only a civil case remained it was easier for an out-of-court settlement to end the prosecution. No number was released but it is thought to be somewhere between two and a half million and five million dollars.

When Bryant was accused of sexual assault, advertising and marketing professionals began questioning their endorsements. Even before he was charged it was predicted that the case would cost him more than one hundred million dollars in potential earnings. Some of his former sponsors included McDonald's, Nike, Sprite, Upper Deck, Spalding, and Nutella. These companies, at the time, issued cautious statements neither supporting Bryant's claim of innocence nor distancing themselves from him. Experts believed that whether the companies stayed with him or not they would become hesitant when making arrangements with other celebrities since Kobe had such a great reputation beforehand. Nutella, a hazelnut-and-chocolate spread popular in Europe, phased Kobe's image from labels and promotional material after the charges of sexual assault were brought against him. At the time McDonald's advertising was geared towards women so the executives used the moral clause in the endorsement to terminate his contract. Since it was NBA play-off season Sprite executives weren't currently running ad's so they planned on following the case before they decided not to renew his contract. Upper Deck and Spalding, who at the time were making an exclusive line of Kobe Bryant signature basketballs that were going for close to two hundred dollars, weren't getting rid of Kobe anytime soon. Kobe is still holding onto his five year, forty million dollar contract with Nike, who used photos of the NBA star just two years after his alleged sexual assault. Experts believe that there were potential sponsorships that Kobe probably was unaware of that are closed to him now because of the accusations that were against him.

Sports fans, in particular, can be pretty forgiving with the right circumstances. Kobe has plenty of years left to play so endorsements are sure to come and as long as he has no more accusations brought against him, his reputation should subside.