“What the fact of having committed … sexual assault complicates for an acclaimed celebrity is the feelings—or maybe, at most, the immediate social situation—of those who’d like to go right on celebrating him. Ironically, or maybe not ironically, nothing smooths this complication more easily than the word ‘complicated’: Be sure to include it in your hosannas. It is a way to skip past the discomfort and ambiguity of actually grappling with the acclaimed celebrity’s monstrousness straight to the part where you congratulate yourself for having done so.” —Albert Burneko
Last weekend, as we were all naively going about our weekend business, our phones lit up simultaneously with the news alert of retired basketball legend Kobe Bryant’s tragic and untimely death via helicopter crash. Adding to the shock was that his thirteen-year-old daughter passed away with him, along with the pilot, Gianna Bryant’s teammate, her teammate’s parents, and three other passengers. Of course you’ve seen the immediate and momentous outpouring of shock, grief, and tributes on social media, expressing condolences to his family and highlighting his athletic achievements and philanthropy.
Then there’s Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez. Via her personal Twitter feed, Sonmez answered the question that had been rattling around my head: are we gonna mention the fact that Kobe Bryant was a credibly accused rapist, or nah?
Daring to speak this truth hasn’t gone well for Sonmez. She’s been publicly rebuked and put on administrative leave by the Post, and received so many death threats she’s had to hole up in a hotel for her own safety. On the one hand, I have nowhere near the reach and platform of the Washington Post; but on the other hand, I have full editorial authority here. Translated into layman’s terms: my blog, my rules. Ain’t nobody suspending me or affecting my paycheck for writing that yes, Kobe Bryant was a credibly accused rapist.
His death is tragic and heartbreaking. No one thinks otherwise. Bryant’s immense talent and success on the basketball court is indisputable. That this is an unfair, crushing, devastating loss for his wife, parents, friends, and especially his surviving three daughters is undeniable. But is anyone asking how his rape victim is doing with all this?
I am not a believer in Don’t Speak Ill of the Dead. If you don’t want bad things written about you in your obituary, then don’t do bad things while you’re alive. Bryant’s alleged behavior toward his victim was brutal. Monstrous. And if things happened the way his accuser claims – and I believe her – then I’m sorry but there’s no way in hell Bryant mistook that for a consensual hookup as he later stated. Read this article for a refresher. (Ironically that’s the article Sonmez tweeted that landed her in so much trouble.)
I’m asking how his rape victim is doing right now. I cannot imagine the retraumatization that could easily be happening to her, listening to so many public figures laud Bryant’s accomplishments and call him a hero while ignoring the violent crime he allegedly committed, and for which he largely skated justice. I cannot fathom what it must be like to see the mob mentality dog piling on any public figure who does dare to remember that he is in fact a credibly accused rapist who likely escaped justice. What must it be like to watch your country care more about a man’s reputation than his victim’s safety and dignity?
Whether the fanboys and access sports journalists like it or not, this rape allegation, including the shameful manner in which he chose to handle its aftermath, is and always will be part of Kobe Bryant’s legacy. I disagree with everyone writing that “it’s complicated” because he was also a successful athlete and a loving father and a philanthropist. It’s actually not complicated at all.
Possession of immense talent and inspiring work ethic does not preclude a person from the capability of committing violence. One actually has nothing to do with the other. Just as it is possible to abuse and terrorize your children behind closed doors while being a model citizen in public, it is also possible to be a loving parent at home and a rapist while traveling away from your family. This duality, to varying extremes, exists in so many people. Good works and professional success and heartwarming family pictures do not erase someone’s darker acts or terrible behaviors; they coexist. Neither does death, no matter how sad or untimely. I’m waiting for the day society just accepts this difficult truth.
Spanish-Style Shrimp and Grits
- 2 cups whole milk
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 1 cup stone-ground white cornmeal
- 1 cup grated Manchego cheese
- ¼ cup grated Cotija cheese
- 2 tbs unsalted butter
- 2 tbs sweet paprika
- ½ tbs ancho chile powder
- 1 ½ tsp ground coriander
- 1 ½ tsp ground fennel
- 1 ½ tsp dry mustard
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 lb shrimp, 21 to 25 count, peeled and deveined
- Canola oil, as needed
- 1 6 oz piece of cured, Spanish chorizo, casings removed and diced
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 1 15 oz can whole peeled tomatoes, with their juices
- 1 tbs sherry vinegar
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- Combine the milk and 2 cups water in a medium-to-large saucepan. Season with 2 tsp kosher salt and ¼ tsp black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. While whisking, slowly add the cornmeal, whisking constantly. Don’t rush this or you’ll get lumps. Once the mixture begins to thicken - and this happens fast - reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, whisking, until the texture is silky, soft, and shiny on top, anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes. When they’re done, you’ll see strong drag marks from your whisk and they will pull away from the side of the pan. Add additional water as needed if they are drying out on you (you’ll likely need to do this a few times).
- Whisk in the cheeses and butter. Taste and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm on a low burner, stirring occasionally. If they are drying on you, splash in a little more milk as needed. They can hang out while you make the shrimp.
- Combine the paprika, ancho chile powder, coriander, fennel, mustard, salt, and pepper in a pie plate or other wide, shallow bowl. Crust each side of each shrimp with the spice rub. You want them good and covered. Let them hang out until you need them.
- Line a plate with paper towels. Heat 2 tbs canola oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring frequently, until crisped and the fat has rendered out. Remove with a slotted spoon to the prepared plate.
- Leave all that glorious fat in the pan. The heat should be medium-high to high. Add the shrimp, in batches, and cook until a crust forms on each side, about 2 minutes total. Remove the shrimp to a plate. They’ll be completely or mostly cooked through.
- In the same pan, lower the heat to medium. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook, just about 1 minute. Don’t burn the garlic. Add the wine and cook, stirring a few times, until completely reduced, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Use a potato masher to smash them up good, then cook another 5 to 10 minutes until they soften completely. Return the shrimp and chorizo to the pot and stir to coat and heat through. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Remove from the heat and stir in the vinegar and parsley.
- To serve, spoon a heap of grits into a shallow bowl, then top with shrimp and its sauce. Garnish with scallions and serve immediately.
- Serve 4.