The widow of NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant will donate $US16m ($A23 million) in damages won against the Los Angeles County to the Mamba And Mambacita Sports Foundation.
Vanessa Bryant took the County to court over ghastly photos that were taken and shared by first responders to the helicopter crash that killed her husband and 12-year-old daughter, Gianna, along with seven others.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Peter Ford speaks to The Morning Show about Bryant’s donation
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Bryant was highly emotional on Thursday (AEST) when the federal jury ruled, after an 11-day fight, that the LA County must pay $US16 million in damages for distributing the photos. She broke down in court when the decision was handed down by the nine-member panel.
In a stunning act of generosity, Bryant has decided to donate the entire sum to her late husband’s legacy – his charity, The New York Post has reported.
The not-for-profit organisation was founded by the Lakers legend following his 2016 retirement after 20 years in the game and five championship rings.
It started as the Mamba Sports Foundation – an obvious choice given his nickname, The Black Mamba – and was renamed after the tragic 2020 helicopter crash to honour Gianna as well as Kobe.
Channel 7 entertainment editor Peter Ford spoke to The Morning Show about the incredible act of generosity.
“This is the follow-up to that news yesterday that she had been awarded $23 million for the unauthorised distribution of those photographs at the helicopter crash scene, which obviously involved her husband and her … daughter,” he said.
“So, now that money is confirmed that, in its entirety, is going to go to the Mamba And Mambacita Foundation.
“That’s giving money to deserving athletes, up and coming athletes – whether they need money for education, or facilities, et cetera.
“She’s worth a lot of money, let’s not pretend – she is worth a lot of money. But still, by anybody’s estimation, to just hand over $23 million is a wonderful effort on her part.”
Bryant said the decision to donate the massive sum of money to the foundation was made “to shine a light on Kobe and Gigi’s legacy,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
As well as Bryant’s $U16 million, the jury also awarded $US15 million to plaintiff Chris Chester, who lost his wife and daughter in the horrific crash.
After 11 days of trial, all nine jurors unanimously found that Bryant and Chester’s constitutional rights were violated by the LA County sheriff’s department’s inability to train its employees on the protocols surrounding accident scene picture sharing.
Bryant and Chester’s lawyers both documented how the gruesome photos of the victims’ bodies were shared among LA County employees and even seen by some of their spouses.
The photos were not made public but the LA County’s unprofessionalism risked the photos being leaked, which, Bryant testified, made her “fear every day of being on social media and these popping up”.
In a statement to the LA Times, Bryant’s lawyer Luis Li said she was fighting for accountability.
“From the beginning, Vanessa Bryant has sought only accountability, but our legal system does not permit her to force better policies, more training or officer discipline,” Li’s statement read.
“Those measures are the responsibility of the sheriff’s and fire departments — responsibilities that Mrs Bryant’s efforts have exposed as woefully deficient, even giving amnesty to the wrongdoers.”
Li lauded Bryant and Chester for bringing “to light the decades-old practice of taking and sharing photos of accident and crime victims for no legitimate purpose”.
“It is Mrs Bryant’s hope that this important civil rights case will put to a stop this abhorrent and callous behaviour,” he added.