While coverage of basketball icon Kobe Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash on Sunday has since engulfed media outlets, New York Magazine’s women-centric politics, fashion, and culture site The Cut has taken a decidedly different approach.
The Cut has not published a single item about Bryant following the crash that killed him and eight others, including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. The reasoning, according to insiders, is concerns about the credible rape allegation made against the NBA star in 2003 by a then-19-year-old hotel employee.
The Cut has published extensive reporting about sexual harassment, misconduct, and violence against women in media, entertainment, and business, and has focused on encouraging and protecting victims.
While the website briefly published a photo of Bryant to its Instagram account on Sunday acknowledging his death, the post was quickly removed. And in a memo to staff on Wednesday, top editor Stella Bugbee said Bryant’s death was “tragic,” but added that she made the decision to take down the social-media post because of the allegations against him.
“Despite the collective grief, I made the decision with sincerity and loyalty to our audience, given the sexual assault allegation against him,” Bugbee wrote. “Taking down a post is never something I take lightly; I wanted to be thoughtful about a complicated topic, and respond appropriately with the nuance the story deserves. Sometimes in a breaking news story we need to give ourselves a moment to catch our breath. That’s the editorial philosophy that has guided us well and defines us.”
Bugbee did not return a request for comment elaborating on the thinking behind not covering Bryant’s death. But a person familiar said the site may well cover Bryant in the future.
Bryant’s death unleashed a wave of public grief, with tributes from everyone from fellow basketball stars to former President Barack Obama to a star-studded musical tribute at the Grammy Awards. Numerous fans flocked to the Los Angeles Lakers’ practice facilities and the Staples Center, the arena where the team plays home games.
But his death has also sparked a debate among many journalists about the proper way to cover his legacy as both the most iconic American athlete of his generation and as a celebrity credibly accused of a brutal rape his fans have often excused or overlooked.
Some journalists and activists have argued that the rape allegation, along with the Bryant legal defense team’s ugly outing and public war on his accuser, needs to be a part of any conversation about his legacy.
That journalistic debate has been so rife with tension that after Washington Post reporter Felicia Sonmez tweeted a link—following Bryant’s death—to a 2016 Daily Beast story detailing the allegations against him, the newspaper suspended her. The Post’s brass claimed she violated the paper’s social-media policy and was “hurting this institution” by tweeting about the rape claim right after Bryant’s death. But the newspaper’s bosses later backed down while continuing to dub the reporter’s tweet as “ill-timed.”
While The Cut has opted to not cover Bryant’s death at all, several prominent outlets that often write about harassment and violence against women covered the NBA star’s death. Jezebel, for example, wrote about how people should talk about Bryant’s legacy, given the harrowing allegations. Vice, too, argued that media outlets covering Bryant should not downplay or compartmentalize the rape allegation made against him. Vogue, meanwhile, wrote several posts about Bryant and the Grammys’ musical tribute to him, but made no mention of the rape allegations.