Comedian Ari Shaffir responds after backlash over Kobe Bryant comments

Ari Shaffir visits the Build series to discuss the film 'Ari Shaffir: Double Negative' at Build Studio on October 20, 2017 in New York City. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Comedian Ari Shaffir has responded after receiving backlash following comments he made about late NBA superstar Kobe Bryant.

Shaffir referred to Bryant as “a rapist” in a video just hours after his death on Sunday.

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“I know there’s a lot of hate and pain going on in the world and there’s always a bunch of terrible stories,” Shaffir said. “But every once in a while there’s a good story. Good story comes out.”

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“A guy who got away with rape got his today,” Shaffir said in the video with a big smile on his face. “Kobe Bryant is gone.

“I’m here in Charlotte. The home of the team that originally drafted him. Maybe he wouldn’t have raped that chick in Denver if he would have stayed in Charlotte with the Hornets.

Shaffir took to social media on Tuesday to post a lengthy statement addressing his comments.

“Every time a beloved celebrity dies I post some horrible sh– about them,” he wrote.

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“I’ve been doing it for years now. I like destroying gods. And right when a famous person dies they’re at their most worshipped. So as a response to all the outpouring of sympathy on social media, I post something vile.

“It’s just a joke. I don’t really hate any of the people.

“Sunday morning, I started seeing a bunch of people asking me where my Kobe post was. The early reports showed that he had died flying a helicopter that he liked flying. It didn’t mention anybody else was on board, let alone children. I never made fun of any of the kids on the helicopter.

“Kids dying like that, it’s horrible. Obviously. All the other people dying, that horrible too. It’s horrible he did. Really really sad,” Shaffir continued. “What a terrible thing that was that happened. But that has nothing to do with why I make these posts. They’re just moronic inappropriate posts I make for the fans who signed up to see them.”

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Shaffir said the only thing he “had against Kobe was that he torched my teams over and over again.”

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“He made me hate the Lakers with all my heart. Nobody came out to comedy shows in LA when he and Shaq were winning titles. And then nobody came when he was doing it on his own,” he wrote. “I loved saying how much I hated the Lakers. Hating the Lakers was my favourite thing to root for.”

Shaffir said that “Kobe’s passing was a perfect storm.”

“I know I had to come up with something really awful. And that’s what I did. That’s what I always do. If I knew the other people were on that helicopter, I probably wouldn’t have posted anything and I woulda just waited for the next celebrity death,” Shaffir said.

He said that he isn’t “actually celebrating his death.”

“That’s just dark comedy. It ain’t for everybody so I don’t post it for everybody. I post it for my followers who are into that kind of comedy.”

“I ain’t actually hurting anyone beyond giving an occasional panic attack to a friend. They’re just words. And they’re not even serious words. They’re jokes for fans. RIP Kobe. F–k the Lakers,” Shaffir concluded his post.

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According to reports, Shaffir took to Twitter six hours after the news of Bryant’s death was released.

“Kobe Bryant died 23 years too late today,” he said. “He got away with rape because all the Hollywood liberals who attack comedy enjoy rooting for the Lakers more than they dislike rape. Big ups to the hero who forgot to gas up his chopper. I hate the Lakers. What a great day! #F–kthelakers.”

He retweeted the tweet after receiving much backlash and threats from Bryant fans and claimed he was “hacked.” Shaffir’s Twitter account is now private.

In response to the backlash, the New York Comedy Club cancelled a performance by Shaffir after it received threats due to his remarks about Bryant.

Shaffir was scheduled to perform on Tuesday night but a representative for the club told The Hollywood Reporter that the venue cancelled the booking and will not be working with him in the future.

The club filed an aggravated harassment report with the New York Police Department (NYPD) after receiving several phone threats as a result of Shaffir’s show, the NYPD confirmed to the outlet.

READ MORE: ‘We are completely devastated’ — Vanessa Bryant’s first statement after Kobe, Gianna’s death

Bryant faced a rape accusation in 2003, though the charges were later dropped.

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Bryant went to the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera hotel in the Rocky Mountain town of Edwards, Colo., on June 30, 2003. While staying there, Bryant went on a tour of the property with the 19-year-old woman who was working as a clerk at the front desk.

The woman later went to Bryant’s hotel room at what she said was his request. She told police in a statement that she willingly kissed and hugged Bryant, but didn’t want to go any further than that.

She said she tried to leave but Bryant grabbed her by the neck, bent her over a chair and raped her while repeatedly saying: “You’re not going to tell anybody about this, right?”

The victim claimed she told Bryant “No” at least twice.

Bryant, who was 24 at the time, was charged with one count of felony assault on July 18, 2003.

Bryant insisted that the sex was consensual in a tearful news conference alongside his wife, Vanessa, whom he had married two years earlier. The news conference was held on the night the charge was announced.

“I’m disgusted at myself for making the mistake of adultery,” he said. “I love my wife with all my heart.”

He added that he was “innocent” of any rape charges.

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Bryant pleaded not guilty when the criminal case went to trial in Colorado.

The prosecution and the defence spent 14 months going over the victim’s claims, debating her sexual history and arguing over DNA evidence amid intense media scrutiny around the NBA superstar at the centre of the case.

Prosecutors ultimately dropped the criminal case on Sept. 1, 2004, citing the victim’s unwillingness to testify.

READ MORE: Kobe Bryant’s great legacy includes a sexual assault allegation, critics point out

Bryant, who retired in 2016, died after the helicopter went down in Calabasas, Calif., just before 10 a.m. local time, according to U.S. media reports. All nine on board, including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, died.

The wreckage was found on a hillside in Calabasas. The helicopter went down in hilly terrain amid foggy conditions, according to both Reuters and The Associated Press.

He shared four children with wife Vanessa Bryant, including Natalia, 17, Bianca, 3, and seven-month-old Capri.

— With files from The Associated Press and Global News’ Josh Elliott

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