Kobe Bryant has been dropped from the jury of an animated film festival after calls for the former National Basketball Association star's ouster over a 2003 rape allegation.
Eric Beckman, the CEO of GKIDS, addressed the complaints and said that the stakeholders made a decision to "drop Bryant to keep its focus on films".
The Lakers star said he believed it was a consensual sexual encounter.
The Los Angeles Lakers legend-turned-Oscar victor was originally scheduled to be a part of the jury during the Animation is Film Festival this weekend, before a petition called for his removal. The charge was dropped in September 2004 after the alleged victim refused to testify.
She later filed a civil suit against him, which was settled out of court with Bryant admitting no guilt. However, the incident is rearing its head again and has cost Bryant a spot in the Animation Is Film Festival.
"This is an urgent time to say NO to toxic and violent behavior against women", the petition reads. 'Keeping Kobe Bryant on the jury sets a precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve'. "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", explained Beckman.
"This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry". I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters, and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation'.