Kobe Bryant Image Repair Paper

By: Chase Strickland

We discussed Kobe Bryant and his image repair strategies. Our paper is summarized below.

Abstract and Intro:

  • Superstar Kobe Bryant was one of the most popular, but polarizing, players in the NBA.
  • In April 2011, Bryant was called for a technical foul during a game.
  • The cameras caught Bryant shouting a gay slur at an NBA official.
  • Bryant was blasted by the media for the slur and fined by the NBA.
  • Bryant called into ESPN radio programs to repair his image and appealed the fine.

Literature Review:

  • We used the following studies: Adrian Peterson (Winters, 2015), Michael Phelps (Walsh & McAllister-Spooner, 2011), Terrell Owens (Brazeal, 2008), Lance Armstrong (Hambrick, Frederick, & Sanderson, 2015), Tonya Harding (Benoit & Hanczor, 1994), Lebron (James Brown, Dickhaus and Long 2012), and Tiger Woods (Meng & Pan, 2013).

Research Questions:

  1. . Did Bryant’s past reputation affect his image repair strategies?
  2. Were Bryant’s strategies more or less affective among the LGBT community?
  3. Did Bryant’s race impact the acceptance of his image repair?


  • We analyzed the Lakers’ and Bryant’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
  • Listened to Bryant’s public discussion of the event.
  • Watched video the Lakers put out promoting gay rights.
  • Analyzed articles written by prominent sites like ESPN, Huffington Post, The New York Times, and Fox Sports.



The table above shows the image repair tactics used by Bryant.
  • Bryant and the Lakers were silent on social media, not responding to the incident.

Lakers FB feed 2

Photo from Lakers’ Facebook Feed.
  • Bryant did call in to ESPN radio and discussed the issue, using reducing the offensiveness of the event and mortification.

ESPN article

Photo from ESPN.com.
  • He used provocation, differentiation and defeasibility.
  • He also used mortification.
  • The results were mixed.

Kobe nonapology

  • A year later, he used corrective action on Twitter.

Kobe Tweet

  • He was praised for this in newspapers of report, such as the Atlantic.
  • When he retired last year, he was given royal treatment by many news sites, including ESPN.

Video from NBA’s Youtube
  • Members of the LGBT community or those with close friends in the community were less quick to accept his apology.


  • Many of the studies we looked at used similar tactics, such as reducing the offensiveness of the event and mortification.
  • Ultimately, mortification and corrective action are the most successful.
  • Past perception does not have much affect on the success of the image repair.
  • Do not contradict your mortification when you seek to reduce the offensiveness of the event.


  • The fact that the incident happened so many years ago makes it hard to find news from immediately after it happened.
  • We could only look at so many posts from after the incident.
  • Kobe Bryant did not use Twitter during the time.


  • Bryant used reducing the offensiveness of the event, mortification and corrective action.
  • While members of the LGBT community were slow to accept his apology, his long-term image stayed roughly the same.
  • He was regarded as an all-time great when he retired.
Photo from SB Nation

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