Be sensitive commenting on difficult news

Hannah Holliday | Cartoonist

Following Kobe Bryant’s tragic passing, social media has been overflown with support and reactions. Celebrities, fans, sports teams and friends of the former Lakers star have looked to social media to pay tribute and respects.

However, some have taken this emotional and sensitive time to negatively comment about Bryant and his past actions, more specifically his rape accusation in 2003.

Immediately following the announcement from TMZ, Twitter users began to compare his death to other celebrities’ deaths, videos claiming to be footage of the helicopter were uploaded and mentions of Bryant’s questionable actions of the past began to surface.

Whether these were posted for the sake of attention or on the belief that the footage was real, these tweets are disrespectful and lack empathy to not only the star, but to his family as well.

Felicia Sonmez, a national political reporter for The Washington Post, was suspended on the grounds of violating The Post’s social media policy, after tweeting an old article regarding Bryant’s rape accusation shortly after his death. The tweet has now been deleted, with a follow up stating, “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality, even if that public figure beloved and that totality upsetting.”

Many people reacted to Sonmez’s tweet—while people paid tribute to the star, Sonmez publicly resurfaced Brant’s rape accusations. While Sonmez argued that a public figure must be remembered in their totality, it was unnecessary for her to shed negative light on Bryant directly after his passing.

The suspension has since been removed; however, her actions caused many upset reactions from Bryant fans, some even sending Sonmez death threats.

Evan Rachel Wood, an actress known for her roles in “Westworld” and “True Blood,” tweeted a controversial message that sparked many reactions. Her tweet read, “What happened is tragic. I am heartbroken for Kobe’s family. He was a sports hero. He was also a rapist. And all of these truths can exist simultaneously.”

Wood received backlash from celebrities and fans, accusing her misusing the #MeToo movement. Many were shocked to see her comment on such a controversial topic so shortly after Bryant’s passing.

Actress Catherine Curtin responded to Wood’s tweet, “And this is where the Me too movement has gotten out of control… attacking a man who literally just died less than 24 hours ago, with his little girl!” Curtain said.

Many argued that Wood was making a joke out of the movement and accused her of tweeting about Bryant to gain attention towards herself.

Additionally, there have been many unnamed source reports that claim and comment about the Bryant family’s previous air travel decisions. Molly Carter, president of Kobe Inc., released a statement commenting on the inaccurate information that has been circulating on social media.

“We are disappointed in some media’s broad use of unnamed sources and blind quotes, and remind everyone that the Bryant family will speak on our own behalf when appropriate,” Carter said. “To this point, no one has been authorized to speak on behalf of the family regarding any personal details surrounding Sunday’s tragedy, including stories related to the family’s previous air travel decisions. We ask members of the media for respect and responsible judgment during this difficult time. These inaccurate reports only add unnecessary pain to a grieving family.”

Carter’s statement further supports the importance of being empathetic and respectful in a situation like Bryant’s. The attempt to post fake or controversial news to gain attention or resurface past situations had a direct impact on Bryant’s family during their grieving process.

Although these reports were not directly aimed to negatively comment about Bryant, it is unnecessary to post incorrect or unverified information for the sake of attention or views.

Regardless of what people may have done, said or experienced, be respectful during times of tragedy. When commenting, be mindful of others who may be mourning, and be empathetic when choosing your words. Even if the person may have done something that you disagree with, in sensitive and tragic situations like death, we must think about the others affected by the event and not use this time to resurface negative actions or comments of their past.