Gayle King, Snoop Dogg & the Kobe Bryant Legacy
February 8, 2020
Snoop Dogg’s threat against Gayle King
I was wracked with insomnia last night, and the following was the story plaguing my thoughts. After an interview with retired WNBA star Lisa Leslie, concerning the late Kobe Bryant, Gayle King is facing death threats. Earlier, CBS had released a promotional excerpt from King’s interview that focused on a portion where Leslie answered a series of questions from King addressing the Colorado sexual assault case that had been brought against Bryant and dismissed. The clip was published online and distributed on CBS News’ social media accounts. The backlash was immediate with one of the most problematic responses coming from Snoop Dogg.
In a profanity-filled social media video, Snoop Dogg accused Gayle King of attacking members of her own community and threatened to come after her if she didn’t “back off”. While some media outlets are downplaying the overt threat of violence in his video. I think the content of the video is self-explanatory.
“Gayle king. Outta pocket for that shit. Way outta pocket. What do you gain from that? I swear to God we the worst, we the fuckin worst. We expect more from you, Gayle. Don’t you hang out with Oprah? Why ya’ll attacking us? We your people. You ain’t comin’ after Harvey Weinstein askin them dumbass questions. I get sick of ya’ll.”
In this portion of his message, Snoop Dogg seems to be using the “we” to invoke famous black men who have been accused of (and convicted for) sexual assault including Michael Jackson, Bill Cosby, and Kobe Bryant. Note: later, convicted serial rapist Bill Cosby reached out to thank him. Apparently, Cosby still gets to tweet from jail.
But Snoop Dogg didn’t stop there. He went on:
“I want to call you one. Is it ok if I call you one? Funky dog head bitch. How dare you try to tarnish my home boy’s reputation. Punk motherfucker. Respect the family and back off… bitch… before we come get you.”
My hands shook while transcribing that video, I can’t possibly imagine how Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey–as well as sexual assault survivors across the country–felt hearing it and witnessing it whip Snoop’s followers into a violent frenzy. One that has since escalated to King receiving threats and needing security when traveling.
According to Oprah, who appeared visibly distraught on Hoda & Jenna & Friends on Friday, King is facing death threats and losing sleep. When asked what she thinks of all of the criticism directed at King, Oprah responded, “I think anybody can criticize anything, but the misogynistic vitriol, and the attacking to the point where it is dangerous to be in the streets alone …because it’s not just the people who are attacking, it’s the other people who take that message and feel like they can do whatever they want to because of it.”
Sound familiar? I can think of at least one person (who is currently occupying the White House) who uses the same social media tactic against those (especially women) who disagree with him.
America’s Blind Eye: The Dismissal of Crimes Against Women
I chose to stay away from commenting on the death of Kobe Bryant and the concerns around his legacy. As a rape survivor, I won’t deny having my trauma triggered by Kobe’s death and the media attention that followed. My hesitation to write about it has primarily been due to my struggles and fears around writing on the topic. But I am not Gayle King. I’m not working for a major news outlet, and I was not tasked with interviewing one of Bryant’s closest female friends.
Gayle’s interview with Lisa Leslie was wide-ranging. The questions she asked Leslie about the rape accusations against Bryant were a small part of a much bigger story. Unfortunately, someone at the network (who was not Gayle King) pulled and pushed out that specific clip to the masses for obvious promotional reasons.
But here’s the thing: the backlash against King is completely unfounded.
As a Journalist at a large network in the position of interviewing a woman who was both a professional basketball player and a good friend of Kobe Bryant’s, she would have been negligent not to ask the questions she did. We don’t just get to erase that part of Kobe Bryant’s life story. We don’t just get to dismiss the fact that he was accused of a very serious crime against a woman.
Gayle had to acknowledge the controversy surrounding his legacy. It was her job and Leslie had a unique and important perspective to bring to the conversation. One, that quite frankly, painted Kobe in a positive light. The questions King asked were professional and journalistically, necessary. There’s no expunging that part of Kobe’s history, it must be addressed to move forward.
The following is part of the exchange between Leslie and King that has created the extreme backlash:
King: “It’s been said that his legacy is complicated because of a sexual assault charge, which was dismissed in 2003, 2004. Is it complicated for you as a woman, as a WNBA player?”
Leslie: “It’s not complicated for me at all. Even if there’s a few times that we’ve been at a club at the same time, Kobe’s not the kind of guy — never been, like, you know, “Lisa, go get that girl” or “Tell her” or “Send her this.” I have other NBA friends that are like that. Kobe, he was never like that. I just never, have ever seen him being the kind of person that would do something to violate a woman or be aggressive in that way. That’s just not the person that I know.”
King: “But Lisa, you wouldn’t see it, though. As his friend, you wouldn’t see it.”
Leslie: “And that’s possible. I just don’t believe that. And I’m not saying things didn’t happen. I just don’t believe that things didn’t happen with force.”
King: “Is it even a fair question to talk about it, consider he’s no longer with us and that it was resolved? Or is it really part of his history?”
Leslie: “I think that the media should be more respectful at this time. If you had questions about it, you’ve had many years to ask him that. I don’t think it’s something that we should keep hanging over his legacy. I mean, it went to trial.”
King: “Yeah, the case, it was dismissed because the victim in the case refused to testify. So, it was dismissed.”
Leslie: “And I think that that’s how we should leave it.”
Snoop Dogg’s Video: Inciting Violence and the Oppression of Women’s Voices
During the hours I lay awake in bed last night, it wasn’t Kobe Bryant’s situation that kept me tossing and turning. It was how Snoop Dogg used his own star power and social media presence to encourage violence against a talented and powerful black woman. He used it to scare her, control her, and ultimately silence her.
At a time in history when African American women are one of the most discriminated against and at-risk cohorts in our country, watching a successful, prominent Black-female figure receive a public threat of violence for simply doing her job is alarming and deeply troubling.
Recent studies show that Black girls and women are hyper-vulnerable to abuse, with approximately 22 percent of Black women in the United States having experienced rape. Additionally, about forty percent will experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime.
And then there is this: Black women are killed at a higher rate than any other group of women.
Women like Gayle King and Oprah Winfrey are essential in the plight for equality in America.
Why Victims of Rape & Sexual Assault Stay Silent
Snoop Dogg’s words had an impact, and people acted on them. But what Snoop really did is perfectly illustrate why women who are sexually assaulted by famous or powerful men, stay quiet. It takes just one tweet, to put a woman’s life in danger. Just one social post, and without lifting a finger, a man can incite violence and potentially get a woman killed.
While Gayle King has the money to hire security—and while I understand that doesn’t necessarily bring her comfort—most women can’t do the same.
This new (trump era) misogynistic social media tactic of control that men wield over women is hugely concerning. We are afraid to speak out about sexual assault and the oppression of our sisters. And that fear is founded. If someone like Oprah or Gayle King can be made frightened by just one hate-infused, sexist tweet by a man, how must a lay woman feel?
A (Not So) Simple Solution
The irony is that one of the ways Snoop has stayed relevant is his partnership with Martha Stewart. The unlikely duo earned a spot in Americans’ hearts. I mean we just can’t not love an unlikely match. One helped the other get in the weed business and they have partnered on an oh-so-not-funny-anymore cooking segment on her show. And just yesterday, as the story about the harassment of Gayle King was breaking, they appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show.
In the wake of this story, I’d love to see women step up (especially powerful white women). I’d love to see Snoop held accountable for his threat and the fallout. I’d love to see these women in the entertainment industry who have partnered with him and promoted him say that they will not be associated with someone who threatens African American women online to silence them and control the way they do their jobs.
Of course, I’d like to see powerful men do the same thing. But ladies, this is our job right now. It’s our job to have zero tolerance for this kind of behavior. It’s our job to stop engaging with the shows and products that support him and every other man who uses this tactic.
Remember, This isn’t about what you do or don’t feel or believe about Kobe Bryant. This is about you acknowledging that everyone has a right to an opinion and a right to criticize, but no man has the right to use his power, fame, and social media influence to threaten, control and try to silence women. We need to send a loud and clear message that we won’t tolerate it.
The good news is that just this morning, Susan Rice took to Twitter to send her own message to Snoop. In a tweet, she said, “This is despicable,” she wrote. “Gayle King is one of the most principled, fair and tough journalists alive. Snoop, back the **** off. You come for @GayleKing, you come against an army. You will lose, and it won’t be pretty.”
Ok, who’s next. Martha Stewart? Ellen? Where are the white ladies at?
feature photo by Greg Hernandez via flickr