Bryant was the executive producer of the six-minute short, which was based on the poem the former NBA star wrote for The Players’ Tribune in 2015 announcing his retirement. The 39-year-old is the first NBA player in history to win an Academy Award.
During his acceptance speech, Bryant dropped a subtle dig at Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who recently told NBA players LeBron James and Kevin Durant to “shut up and dribble” after they criticized President Donald Trump in a video on YouTube.
“I mean, as basketball players, we’re really supposed to shut up and dribble. I’m glad we do a little bit more than that,” Bryant said during his acceptance speech. Animator Glen Keane accepted the award alongside Bryant.
Several Twitter users pointed out the irony of Bryant winning an Oscar during the Me Too and Time’s Up era. In July 2003, Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado. Although Bryant admitted to having a sexual encounter with the woman, he denied the accusation that it was rape.
The case was later dropped when the young woman declined to testify against Bryant in court. She later filed a civil suit that was settled out of court in March 2005 and included Bryant making a public apology, although he never admitted any guilt.
After Bryant was nominated for the Oscar in January, nearly 17,000 people signed a petition calling for the Academy to rescind Bryant’s nomination over the rape allegations against him.
“An important conversation has been started about sexual assault and harassment, so why is Bryant being honored for best animated short if Time really is Up?” the creator of the petition wrote.
Many people on Twitter were similarly unhappy Sunday night after Bryant won the Oscar.