MSNBC anchor Alison Morris probably led the pack in the worst way when she labeled Bryant as being apart of the “Los Angeles ni**ers” instead of the “Los Angeles Lakers.”
“Seems like he was just the kind of athlete, the kind of star that was perfectly cast on the Los Angeles ni**ers,” she said on air before correcting herself by saying “Los Angeles Lakers.”
Morris’ words caused instant backlash to the point that a Change.org petition was even started calling for her to be fired. In a Sunday tweet, Morris denied used the N-word, instead saying she meant to say “Nakers.”
“Earlier today, while reporting on the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, I unfortunately stuttered on air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say ‘Nakers,’” she tweeted. “Please know I did not & would NEVER use a racist term. I apologize for the confusion this caused.”
Bryant rose to international superstardom as a player on the Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 2016. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna would follow in her father’s footsteps, playing competitive ball with aspirations to play in college, according to Slate. Kobe and Gina tragically died in a private helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. They are survived by mom and wife Vanessa Bryant and three other daughters. Seven other people died on the plane including the pilot.
The mixup was immediately slammed with HuffPost reporter Nadine White calling the BBC’s error a “deeply unfortunate mix up,” according to The Washington Post. She tweeted “They got two big, Black men confused and featured LeBron James instead of late Kobe Bryant in this news segment. This only adds to our collective grief at this time.”
British lawmaker David Lammy also tweeted, “Kobe Bryant and LeBron James don’t even look similar. If the BBC hired more black producers and editors, appalling mistakes like this simply would not happen.”
Eventually the editor of BBC’s “News at Six” and “News at Ten”, tweeted an apology on Sunday, saying the mistake was a “human error.”
“In tonight’s coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant on #BBCNewsTen we mistakenly used pictures of LeBron James in one section of the report. We apologise for this human error which fell below our usual standards on the programme,” he tweeted.
Newsreader Reeta Chakrabarti also issued an on-air apology for the coverage, saying, “In our coverage of the death of Kobe Bryant, in one section of the report, we mistakenly showed pictures of another basketball player, LeBron James. We do apologize for the error.”
Finally, another misguided move came when a Washington Post reporter posted an article bringing up Kobe Bryant’s 2003 rape case only hours after he died. According to DailyMail.com, Felicia Sonmez, who covers national politics for the Post, tweeted a link to an April 2016 article from the news site The Daily Beast which featured the headline, “Kobe Bryant’s Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser’s Story, and the Half-Confession.”
While many people on social media have been grappling with Bryant’s death and his alleged history as an abuser due to rape accusations against him, Sonmez’s post was viewed as being too soon and without consideration of Kobe’s grieving family and fans. It was especially jarring coming from a Washington Post reporter. According to DailyMail.com, the Post’s managing editor Tracy Grant said that Sonmez was placed on “administrative leave while The Post reviews whether tweets about the death of Kobe Bryant violated The Post newsroom’s social media policy.” Grant continued, “The tweets displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues.”
Sonmez said she received brutal backlash from her post, saying she even got death threats. She eventually deleted the post.
However, she also expressed in now-deleted tweets, “To the 10,000 people (literally) who have commented and emailed me with abuse and death threats, please take a moment and read the story – which was written 3+ years ago, and not by me.”
She continued, “Any public figure is worth remembering in their totality even if that public figure is beloved and that totality unsettling. That folks are responding with rage and threats toward me (someone who didn’t even write the piece but found it well-reported) speaks volumes about the pressure people come under to stay silent in these cases.”