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Give alleged victims a sporting chance - Diane Wagner

There seems to be no doubt that Kobe Bryant is a nice guy, but I think I'm going to be ill.

The Los Angeles Lakers All-Star, 24, is accused of raping a 19-year-old Eagle Valley (Colo.) Senior High School graduate last month. His wife is standing behind him, though, and so are legions of fans.

In fact, support is running so high that the Web site FreeKobe.com crows that it is "expanding our online store to offer you more Kobe Bryant products."

The site, which is not affiliated with Bryant, the Lakers or the National Basketball Association, is polling supporters/customers on the question of whether the charges against Bryant are warranted. Voters can choose from "yes," "no" or "damn those T-shirts are nice."

A teenager has been assaulted here.

Whether Bryant did anything to her remains to be decided by a jury of his peers that, hopefully, includes more than just sports fans. But, make no mistake, she is under assault now.

The Orange County Register is withholding her name, so as not to embarrass her, but it published a report detailing an apparent pill overdose two months before the alleged attack.

A friend is quoted as saying she doesn't believe other friends who said the overdose was accidental. She called it "a cry for help." Then experts weigh in on the chances of a "mentally unstable" accuser winning in court.

Meanwhile, the wholesome Bryant and his lovely wife are making the news-show rounds to paint the incident as a simple marital indiscretion. Forgiven and done with.

It's not about the squeaky clean image that put Bryant right behind Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan as the most sought-after product endorser in the sports world. It's not about million-dollar contracts with McDonald's, Sprite and Nike.

It's about love and marriage and his adorable 6-month-old daughter now.

Well, while supporters are busy casting Bryant as a devoted family man who made a mistake, it would be nice if they took time to visualize the alleged victim as their daughter.

How exciting it must have been for her to actually meet the great (and nice) basketball star. How thrilled she must have been to get a little one-on-one time with him. I'm sure she was looking forward to tossing it casually into the conversation at the next party with friends, and maybe her dad would even be proud of the connection.

Yeah, everyone's star-struck. And that's the problem with these athlete rape-cases that seem to be getting more prevalent every year.

I don't know if Bryant attacked that girl, but I do know that I'm getting sick and tired of society immediately jumping to the defense of famous jocks. We think we know them, but we don't.

Just because their alleged victims don't start selling T-shirts reading "Don't let him score again," doesn't mean they should be less of a consideration.

Just because the women don't share the ugly details on national television doesn't mean they're not one of us.

Diane Wagner covers county government for the Daily Herald. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or dwagner@henryherald.com.