Washington Post's suspension over Bryant tweet sparks outrage

Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna, 13, Went to Church Together Hours Before Fatal Helicopter Crash

The Washington Post came under fire Monday for its decision to suspend a reporter a day after she tweeted about the rape case against Kobe Bryant, only hours after the former basketball star and his daughter died with seven others in a helicopter crash.

On Sunday afternoon, as the world was learning the news and initial details of Bryant's death, the Post's Felicia Sonmez tweeted a link to a Daily Beast story titled, "Kobe Bryant's Disturbing Rape Case: The DNA Evidence, the Accuser's Story, and the Half-Confession."

Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna, 13, Went to Church Together Hours Before Fatal Helicopter Crash

Shortly afterward, she tweeted that she had received "abuse and death threats" from "10,000 people, literally." She added that "any public figure is worth remembering in their totality."

Her tweets were later deleted.

According to the New York Times, Post executive editor Martin Baron emailed Sonmez shortly after her tweets and said, in part, "A real lack of judgment to tweet this. Please stop. You're hurting this institution by doing this."

In a statement Monday, Post managing editor Tracy Grant said Sonmez's tweets "displayed poor judgment that undermined the work of her colleagues," and cited a violation of the Post newsroom's social media policy.

Bryant was accused of and charged with sexual assault in 2003, but the charge was dropped after the accuser refused to testify. He later settled a civil suit with the accuser.

After news of Sonmez's suspension broke, numerous outlets criticised the decision by the Post. That included fellow Post employees.

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CALABASAS, CA - JANUARY 26: Investigators work at the scene of a helicopter crash that killed former NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Nine people have been confirmed dead in the crash, among them Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
CALABASAS, CA - JANUARY 26: In this handout photo provided by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, emergency crews respond to a helicopter crash that reportedly killed former NBA player Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Calabasas, California. Five people have been confirmed dead in the crash in the Calabasas hills, among them former NBA star of the Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant. (Photo by LASD via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: A man mourns the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: (L-R) Los Angeles Lakers fans Lilian Gamez, Gabriel Gamez and Angelica Rodriguez mourn the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant outside the Staples Center prior to the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
ORLANDO, FLORIDA - JANUARY 26: Assistant coach Sam Cassell and Tyronn Lue of the LA Clippers react on the bench after honoring former NBA player Kobe Bryant who died in a helicopter crash during the first half against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center on January 26, 2020 in Orlando, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: A general view of atmosphere during Steven Tyler's Third Annual GRAMMY Awards Viewing Party to benefit Janie’s Fund presented by Live Nation at Raleigh Studios on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Anna Webber/Getty Images for Janie's Fund)
Candles decorate a makeshift memorial in front of a Kobe Bryant mural in downtown Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. - Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
Luis Villanueva lights a candle in front of a Kobe Bryant mural in downtown Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. - Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Distraught Los Angeles Lakers fan Naima Smith (wearing glasses) crying at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Fans are seen at a memorial next to a mural of Kobe Bryant on Melrose Avenue on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, was a five-time NBA champion and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was 41. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death, at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. - Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
NEWBURY PARK, CA - JANUARY 26: People mourn at a makeshift memorial at Mamba Sports Academy for former NBA great Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash while commuting to the academy on January 26, 2020 in Newbury Park, California. Nine people have been confirmed dead in the crash in Calabasas, among them Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death, at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. - Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death, at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. - Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
NEWBURY PARK, CA - JANUARY 26: People mourn at a makeshift memorial at Mamba Sports Academy for former NBA great Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash while commuting to the academy on January 26, 2020 in Newbury Park, California. Nine people have been confirmed dead in the crash in Calabasas, among them Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
NEWBURY PARK, CA - JANUARY 26: People mourn at a makeshift memorial at Mamba Sports Academy for former NBA great Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash while commuting to the academy on January 26, 2020 in Newbury Park, California. Nine people have been confirmed dead in the crash in Calabasas, among them Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
People gather around a makeshift memorial for former NBA and Los Angeles Lakers player Kobe Bryant after learning of his death, at LA Live plaza in front of Staples Center in Los Angeles on January 26, 2020. - Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash which claimed the life of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his 13 year old daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on Sunday. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the pilot of the aircraft died in the accident. The helicopter crashed in foggy weather in the Los Angeles suburb of Calabasas. Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly at 9:47 am about the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside. (Photo by Apu GOMES / AFP) (Photo by APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OREGON - JANUARY 26: The Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers honor the passing of NBA legend Kobe Bryant prior to their their game at Moda Center on January 26, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fans gather to pay respects at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fans gather to pay respects at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Fans gather at LA Live to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant who died earlier in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fans gather to pay respects at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fans gather to pay respects at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Victor Nava holds up his sign at LA Live to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant who died earlier in a helicopter crash on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Distraught Los Angeles Lakers fan Naima Smith (wearing glasses) crying at a vigil for the late NBA star Kobe Bryant on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tullberg/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Images for the late Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant are projected onto a screen while (L-R) YG, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, and Roddy Ricch perform onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at STAPLES Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy )
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Los Angeles Lakers fans gather to mourn the death of retired NBA star Kobe Bryant at Xbox Plaza on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Bryant, 41, died today in a helicopter crash in near Calabasas, California. (Photo by Rachel Luna/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - JANUARY 26: After the first two possessions both teams took planned turnovers as the crowd chanted "KOBE" as Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors and Kyle Lowry #7 embrace as Dejounte Murray #5 of the San Antonio Spurs takes a moment during first half action at AT&T Center on January 26, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that ,by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Kobe Bryant's jerseys are seen at the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by John Shearer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)
NEWBURY PARK, CA - JANUARY 26: People mourn at a makeshift memorial at Mamba Sports Academy for former NBA great Kobe Bryant, who was killed in a helicopter crash while commuting to the academy on January 26, 2020 in Newbury Park, California. Nine people have been confirmed dead in the crash in Calabasas, among them Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 26: Host Alicia Keys speaks in tribute to the late Lakers player Kobe Bryant onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Host US singer-songwriter Alicia Keys and Boyz II Men sing in memory of late NBA legend Kobe Bryant during the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards on January 26, 2020, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP) (Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 26: Tyson Chandler #19 of the Houston Rockets becomes emotional during a moment of silence of Kobe Bryant at Pepsi Center on January 26, 2020 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Timothy Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 26: A young fan hold a sign in memory of former player Kobe Bryant during a game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Boston Celtics at the Smoothie King Center on January 26, 2020 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Post media critic Erik Wemple called the suspension "misguided."

New York magazine Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi tweeted, "News organisations should protect their journalists, not acquiesce to the mob when it comes for them. The Washington Post not only failed Felicia Sonmez, but set a dangerous precedent."

The Washington Post Guild also defended Sonmez in a lengthy statement, in part stating: "Felicia received an onslaught of violent messages, including threats that contained her home address, in the wake of a tweet Sunday regarding Kobe Bryant. Instead of protecting and supporting a reporter in the face of abuse, The Post placed her on administrative leave while newsroom leaders review whether she violated the social media policy.

"Felicia had to leave her home out of fear for her safety and has gotten insufficient guidance from the Post on how to protect herself."

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