The Problem With Kobe Bryant’s Support of Women’s Sports

Why do female athletes and leagues like the WNBA continue to prop up men with questionable pasts?


Sophia Di Iorio

(Illustration by Sophia Di Iorio)

Bela Kirpalani, Sports Editor

It has been an objectively good summer for women’s sports. The United States women’s national soccer team won its fourth FIFA World Cup and continues to make national news in its fight for fair pay. NBA 2K recently announced that it would introduce WNBA players into the video game for the first time. The National Women’s Soccer League has seen a 70 percent increase in attendance immediately following the World Cup. And the WNBA’s viewership has also seen a more substantial increase than in previous years.

If you’ve been paying close attention to the WNBA this summer, you will certainly have seen the stars on display. But you may also have seen other stars on the sidelines. Stars like Kobe Bryant and Floyd Mayweather. Stars who have — to say the least — questionable histories with women. We can’t just forget how Bryant essentially admitted his wrongdoing following sexual assault allegations while simultaneously having his team of attorneys bully his accuser into silence. Or Mayweather’s repeated instances of domestic violence.

I’ll be honest. It has been very difficult for me to see some of my favorite players support these male athletes without ever addressing the allegations made against them. 

I’m not here to judge anyone for their reactions to meeting Bryant or hearing his support. Yes, I’m sure it’s cool to see a player of his stature compliment another athlete’s game or help someone through a difficult time period. That’s all fine. But I can’t fathom openly celebrating him or his seemingly genuine support of women’s sports. If you really want to praise a famous man for supporting the WNBA, send your regards to Snoop Dogg, LeBron James or Bradley Beal. Better yet, showcase one of the amazing women that play in the league.

I recognize that having a legend like Bryant on the sidelines may bring the league some perks such as increased media coverage or social media. But the WNBA — and women’s sports in general — doesn’t need the support of men with poor records who have not made amends or even attempted to make amends for their actions. 

I’m not suggesting that the WNBA or NWSL bar Bryant or Mayweather from entering and enjoying games as fans. I’m merely suggesting that women’s leagues, networks and sports as a whole don’t go out of their way to use these men as faces or promoters of the sport. There already are incredibly capable women who can be showcased and supported. We can — believe it or not — sell women’s sports to people by having an actual woman be the face of the campaign.

The Sports Girl is a weekly sports column that will feature a girl’s take on sports. Yes, a girl. Yes, on sports.

A version of this article appeared in the Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 print edition. Email Bela Kirpalani at [email protected].