In most cases winning an Academy Award is pretty much a guarantee you’ll be invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences the following summer. That does not appear to be the case with one half of the creative team behind this year’s Animated Short Film Winner, Kobe Bryant.
According to a report in Cartoon Brew and confirmed by Variety, the four-time NBA Champion, NBA MVP and 18-time NBA All-Star has been denied an invite by the Governors committee of the Academy. Bryant, who is credited as the writer of “Dear Basketball” (the short was based on an essay he wrote announcing his retirement), was initially voted in by the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch. The Governors Committee disagreed, however, and rescinded the invite. In a letter sent to members of the branch the Governors Committee noted that Brant needed “some evidence of a larger career” before being invited into the organization.
Branch Governor Bill Kroyer presented Bryant’s case to the committee noting he had expressed a desire to continue to work in short films, but was rebuked. The committee noted that other candidates across the organization had to live up to the standards of a significant career and Bryant, at this time, did not qualify. It should be noted that Oscar winners as notable as Adele and Sam Smith have not been invited into the Academy as of yet. Their wins were their first nominations. Bryant follows that trend.
Moreover, as my former colleague Kris Tapley noted, the Academy had been criticized for the perception of lowering the standards of entry into the organization in order to meet its goals in diversifying the membership. There is also the case of the controversy of Bryant’s nomination in the first place in the context of the #MeToo era. Bryant was accused of sexual assault in 2003 in a case that was ultimately settled out of court. The idea that influenced his invite being rescinded may be justified to many, but is likely a red herring that did not come into play with the Academy’s thinking.
It should be noted the Board of Governors has the power to reinstate Bryant’s invitation. The list of new members typically is released in mid to late July.