Kobe Bryant: Washington Post reporter suspended after tweets

Washington Post employees have condemned the paper after it suspended a journalist for tweets about the late US basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

Felicia Sonmez posted a link to a 2016 article about historical sexual assault allegations against Bryant in the wake of his death in a helicopter crash.

She received death threats, and has since deleted the post.

But the paper then placed her on administrative leave – prompting a condemnatory letter from colleagues.

“Instead of protecting and supporting a reporter in the face of abuse, The Post placed her on administrative leave,” the Washington Post Guild letter to the editors reads.

It describes the paper’s social media guidelines as “vague and inconsistently enforced”, and says the newspaper has not clearly explained why she was suspended.

Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were among the nine people who died in a helicopter crash on Sunday, sparking an outpouring of grief around the world.

The player was considered one of the greatest in the history of basketball, winning five NBA championships and two Olympic Gold medals during his 20-year career.

In 2003, in his early days as a player, Bryant was accused of sexual assault by a 19-year-old woman. The case was dropped after she refused to testify in court. She had received death threats after a clerical error saw her name published online.

Bryant repeatedly denied the allegations but later apologised and settled an ensuing civil case out of court.

In the wake of Bryant’s death, Sonmez tweeted a 2016 Daily Beast story about the rape allegations against the basketball player. The article includes police interviews with the accuser and with Bryant from 2003.

Sonmez did not write the piece, and posted it on her Twitter feed without comment.

She was swiftly criticised for the timing and content of her tweet. In her response Sonmez called the attacks “eye-opening” but defended her decision to post the link saying the way her post was received “speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases”.

Sonmez herself came forward in 2018 with allegations about sexual misconduct by Jonathan Kaiman, then a Los Angeles Times journalist. He later resigned, although he says the pair had consensual sex and their perceptions of what happened differ.

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