For the last two days, social media has been mourning the death of the 41-year-old NBA player, Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter and six other people who died in a helicopter crash.
Many celebrities, especially those from the sports community, have been posting heartfelt messages on their social media accounts, remembering Bryant and his family in prayers.
However, outrage and surprise came in when a journalist from The Washington Post tweeted the rape allegations made by a 19-year-old in 2003 against the late basketball player and well, hell broke loose on Twitter.
A national political reporter for the newspaper, Felicia Sonmez faced suspension because she was criticized for tweeting the Daily Beast article 2016 with the headline “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s story, and the Half-Confession”.
She posted it when the entire world had received the shocking news of his demise but later deleted the tweet, and it is no secret that it was due to pressure from The Post. “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality, even if that public figure is beloved and that totality upsetting”.
Sonmez wrote and defended her right to speak against Bryant. She also posted pictures of her inbox, flooding with hate mail due to her tweet, along with the name of the senders. However, just like the previous tweets that, too, was deleted.
Source: The Washington Post
Not surprisingly, many fans exploded on her timeline and demanded that The Washington Post, must fire her immediately for being insensitive to the dead and his family. "@washingtonpost you need to fire Felicia Sonmez ASAP! Her tweets about Kobe Bryant after he & other victims died in a tragic helicopter crash are beyond insensitive. They are cold-hearted & show no respect for his family/friends. Parents & children died today for Christ's sake!" One user tweeted.
When the newspaper was repeatedly tagged and called out in the social media posts, one of their managing editors, Tray Grant released a statement to NBC News on Monday saying that Felicia Sonmez “was placed on administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweet about the death of Kobe Bryant violates The Post newsroom's media policy”.
Source: Nikki Swift
However, none of the spokespeople identified the tweet that she was suspended for, because last we checked, she tweeted it from her personal account and holds as much right as anyone else to share her opinion. Sonmez, the journalist suspended over the tweet, was available for a statement on Monday to Wemple, an American journalist and she revealed that due to safety concerns, she stayed in a hotel room on Sunday night. And just like everyone speculated, she deleted the tweets regarding Bryant and hate mail, only after receiving the calls to do so by Grant.
The journalist community came to her defense and said that no one should be suspended over their right to tweet the news, especially when it is relevant to the current discussion of Kobe Bryant’s demise and past. "News organizations should protect their journalists, not acquiesce to the mob when it comes for them. The Washington Post not only failed Felicia Sonmez but set a dangerous precedent," Olivia Nuzzi, the Washington correspondent for New York magazine wrote on Twitter.
Another media person. Anushka Patel, who is the social strategy editor at The New York Times, came in defense of the fellow reporter, criticizing the decision in a tweet. "This is a terrifying way to treat your journalists,'' she said. Kobe Bryant was accused of raping a 19-year-old girl in a hotel in Colorado. However, she refused to come forward to give a statement after possible threats, and a civil suit was settled later. Bryant did admit to having sex with the victim as the medical reports revealed, but he insisted that it was consensual.
Some users on social media came out in support of Felicia, who was also a victim of sexual assault and accused Jonathan Kaiman, the former Beijing bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times in 2018. “The Post should reinstate Felicia Sonmez. An overreaction to the keyboard warriors. While you can debate the timing of the tweets, it's a relevant detail to the life of Kobe Bryant. A newspaper silencing a journalist sets a terrible example”, one user tweeted.
Wemple criticized the newspaper saying that historians and journalists should be seen as reliable sources for delivering facts to the public and he is not wrong. With many channels and newspapers doing throwbacks on Bryant and his glamorous NBA career, the aspect of rape allegation was conveniently missed out, and this shows how far we are willing to go to excuse the rapists and silence the voices who then point otherwise. The Post has not yet commented on the criticism, and Felicia Sonmez still remains on administrative leave from her duties.