Early next week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is set to reveal the latest class of invitees to the film industry’s most prestigious organisation. But at least one name that might have been expected to be on it will be missing: basketball legend Kobe Bryant.
The retired Los Angeles Lakers star won an Oscar earlier this year along with director Glen Keane for the animated short film Dear Basketball. Under the academy’s procedures, Oscar winners and nominees are automatically considered for, though not guaranteed, membership, with the ultimate decision of who gets admitted to the group residing with the 54-member board of governors.
While Bryant was recommended for membership by the short films and feature animation branch, he did not make the final cut, The Times has confirmed, owing to his lack of a larger body of work in the film industry.
The news that Bryant was denied academy membership was first reported by the website Cartoonbrew.com.
Had Bryant been granted membership, it may have stirred controversy on two fronts.
In the run-up to the Oscars, thousands of people signed a petition demanding that Bryant’s nomination for Dear Basketball be rescinded due to a sexual assault case brought against him in 2003, which was ultimately dropped and later the subject of a civil settlement. As the academy navigates the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements — most recently with the expulsion of director Roman Polanski and comedy star Bill Cosby — his inclusion in the newest class might have raised thorny questions.
In addition, as the academy has rapidly expanded its ranks in recent years in an effort to diversify its historically overwhelmingly white and male membership, growing to more than 8,000 members, some rank-and-file members have feared a lowering of the standards for admission — concerns that might have arisen anew had Bryant, with his sparse film credits, scored an invitation.
Though relatively rare, it is not unprecedented for Oscar nominees and even winners to be denied — or, in some cases, decline — academy membership. For example, despite winning an Oscar for the 2016 Pixar short Piper, producer Marc Sondheimer did not earn an invitation to join the group.