Vanessa Bryant is not ready to move on

Vanessa Bryant is not ready to move on

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More than two and a half years later, Kobe Bryant’s widow is still grieving.

She wears all black when entering a courtroom, dark sunglasses covering her eyes from a photographer’s lens shutter. And once inside, Vanessa Bryant can’t stop the tears as she shares her pain with a jury or even listens to testimony during her civil trial against Los Angeles County’s law enforcement and first responder departments. After the January 2020 helicopter crash that killed her husband, 13-year-old daughter and seven others, a handful of sheriff’s deputies and firefighters shared macabre photos of Kobe Bryant’s remains.

She won’t just move on from that.

LA Sheriff Vanessa Bryant argues in court over Kobe Bryant crash photos

Likewise, it’s been more than two years since quarterback Deshaun Watson lay naked on a spa massage table in Houston, and at least one of his alleged victims is still awaiting an apology.

She has since given up her career as a massage therapist despite running a successful business for 11 years. Lauren Baxley no longer feels safe alone with a client because she says Watson, then the face of the Houston Texans, tried to turn a professional therapy session into his personal happy ending. Just as a multitude of other massage therapists have claimed.

Baxley won’t just move on either.

The myth of getting ahead tells us that as the days, months, years go by, everything will get better. The pain will heal and the memories will disappear in our minds. And there has to come a time when we all want and need to get on with our lives.

This notion that time heals all wounds seems comforting and perhaps explains why the simplistic adage has stuck for so long. But we’ve recently seen vivid reminders of why that hopeful expression never quite matches real life: Bryant’s continued battle with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Baxley’s refusal to just reach an agreement and walk away.

That’s where the problem with progress lies. As the news cycle may return to football and fans may simply want to remember Kobe as a Los Angeles Lakers great, Watson’s accusers and Vanessa Bryant tell us they’d rather pursue something that feels closer to accountability. They want action, not just more time.

That hasn’t stopped the apologists and trailblazers in Watson’s world from attempting to further the healing process.

On Thursday, the NFL and NFL Players Association reached an agreement to punish Watson, who is now the Cleveland Browns’ problem. Watson will serve an 11-game suspension and pay a $5 million fine. Following this ruling for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, he unwisely appeared before a group of reporters. Decked out in his new corporate colors of orange and brown, but clad even more in cellophane, Watson repeated “move forward” or “push forward” no fewer than six times in the first minute of answering questions.

Sally Jenkins: Deshaun Watson is the star the NFL deserves: A cynical, empty-headed narcissist

“I’m moving on with my career, with my life, and I will continue to stand by my innocence,” Watson said, contradicting a previous empty apology he served in a softball interview less than a week earlier.

In his rush to get to the cure – his own – Watson didn’t stop there.

“At the end of the day I have to do what is best for Deshaun Watson. And I know what happened. I have been in such situations. But I have to keep pushing forward and keep going.”

Go ahead and take no responsibility for the harm done to the massage therapists must be the main topic of conversation for Team Watson, as his agent, David Mulugheta, demonstrated on Twitter.

“Deshaun has always stated that he is innocent of sexual assault. Nothing has changed in his statements. He also said he was remorseful the choices he made created this situation. The settlement allows him to move forward in his life and career,” Mulugheta wrote.

Though the first civil lawsuits against Watson were filed more than 17 months ago, and Baxley’s alleged encounter with him took place in June 2020, she hasn’t “moved forward” or “moved forward” with her life and career anytime soon.

Baxley’s lawsuit against Watson is still pending, and in a first-person essay for The Daily Beast, she explains why she didn’t just move on.

“I rejected all settlement offers, in part because they contained neither a sincere admission of remorse and wrongdoing nor promises of rehabilitative treatment,” writes Baxley. “Watson still refuses to admit that he molested and indecently assaulted me.”

Baxley remains the sole holdout of a group that agreed to financial settlements with Watson, and her actions disprove any cynic’s theory that women like her were only in for a big payday. What would happen next for Baxley? Only she would know, but time clearly hasn’t repaired her world, which has been “damaged forever”.

And even though Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit is seeking damages from Los Angeles County employees, which prompted the judge to propose that she settle the case because there will be no criminal justice system here, she’s moving on. She’s worth hundreds of millions, so this isn’t about getting paid. It’s about demanding justice.

Not all wounds heal over the course of the calendar; Bryant’s panic attacks and anxiety had no expiration date. Moving forward for Bryant could start with ensuring that any sheriff or firefighter responsible for such indecency would respond for sharing the crash site photos, and ensuring they never show up on social media.

Time chugs on for those of us who have been following both cases. As always, a new injustice will arise and anger us, then we will turn our attention to the next and the one after that and the one after that. But look at Bryant’s face and read Baxley’s words. You are not ready to move on.