NBA superstar Kobe Bryant's pending divorce to wife Vanessa Bryant grabbed headlines last Friday, but it is the cheating allegations that could continue to linger and plague the Los Angeles Lakers guard.
A slew of gossip publications, including TMZ, have alleged that Vanessa Bryant filed for divorce after catching Kobe cheating with multiple different women. The alleged straw that broke the camel's back appears to be an alleged relationship with Carla DiBello, a producer for the Kourtney and Kim Take New York reality show.
This isn't the first time that Kobe Bryant has been involved in an alleged infidelity. In 2003, he admitted to the public that he cheated on his wife with a young woman working at a Colorado hotel. The woman had at one point accused Kobe of raping her, but later dropped the charges after intense media scrutiny.
No woman has publicly come forward with allegations that she slept with the married basketball player, but it could be only a matter of time, according to one expert.
Between now and New Year's, we will probably have a woman publicly come out and make allegations (about Kobe), Mike Paul, the president of MGP & Associated PR, told the International Business Times.
Paul, known as The Reputation Doctor, believes that Bryant should come out and publicly address the rumors with as much information as possible, as long as it wouldn't hurt him in a court of law.
Bryant previously dealt with the infidelity issue in 2003, but was able to bounce back relatively quickly. After the initial allegations, Bryant managed to win two NBA championships, an Olympic gold medal, the NBA MVP award, as well as multiple other accolades.
The constant winning was able to overshadow Kobe's issues off the court, but Paul strongly believes that winning isn't the answer to dealing with a public relations crisis.
No one questioned his ability to play, he said. The root of the crisis is his relationship with women. The problem isn't Kobe's jump shot or that he's not scoring a lot, the problem is everything he is doing off the court.
How is the solution tied to Bryant scoring (81) points? It's absolutely a temporary solution.
Bryant does have to be smart about what he says in order to not hurt him in divorce proceedings with Vanessa. TMZ, and other outlets, have reported that he does not have a pre-nuptial agreement with his wife and that the divorce could cost him as much as $150 million.
He will likely try to put together some sort of arrangement with his wife that bans any public comments about the reason for the divorce. That won't stop the Barbara Walters and Brian Williams of the world from trying to secure her first interview, but information could come through leaks and not a sit-down interview.
In a potential scandal like this one, Vanessa Bryant is just one of many stakeholders affected, according to Paul. The longer that it drags out, the more likely it is to overshadow the NBA's big opening day on Christmas.
The NBA is just back after it was damaged by everything that happened now it has to worry about one of its star players on if this is going to explode again, he said. It affects every stakeholder that is associated with you. The NBA, the Lakers, his wife, his parents, her family, his kids, his sponsors, any woman that ever slept with him that could make money by coming forward.
Could More Infidelities Affect Sponsorships?
After Bryant battled rape allegations, some of his sponsors cut ties with the talented superstar. Family oriented McDonald's quickly dumped him, while Nike kept him as a client, but severely cut all marketing efforts for him until the case blew over.
Since the 2003 allegations, Kobe Bryant has been able to build back up his sponsorships, though with a few curious selections. Bryant agreed to become the spokesperson for Turkish Airlines in 2010, but upset some of his most diehard fans with the move.
The airlines is half-owned by the Turkish government, which upset a large Armenian population in Los Angeles, according to CBS News.
These latest allegations of infidelity -- that have yet to be proven -- could also affect Bryant's endorsement deals.
It depends on the nature of who the sponsors are and how sensitive they are to those kinds of issues, Ira Mayer, publisher of the Licensing Letter, told the International Business Times. Does it hurt in near term? Yes, in terms of sponsorships, endorsements, and licensing.
The issue with Bryant, though, is that each company that chose to engage in a sponsorship deal with the NBA superstar knew about his past cheating. Additional cheating allegations shouldn't shock any of his sponsors, which is why the fall from grace won't be as severe as Tiger Woods' in 2009.
Kobe isn't starting from as high a place (as Tiger Woods), Adam Chase, an attorney that specializes in sports sponsorship deals for Dow Lohnes PLLC, told the International Business Times. I think it's a different context for Tiger two years ago and for Kobe now. Tiger was much more associated with corporate America than Kobe was or will be.
The Woods scandal shocked the public because of the clean cut image everyone had of the golf superstar. Most viewed Woods as the picture perfect family man with ex-wife Elin and not a guy that would stay up all night partying in Las Vegas with strippers and porn stars.
Few, if any athletes, could create the high shock value that the Woods scandal had. Perhaps a sex scandal with Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow -- a known celibate -- could create a similar amount of shock, but another Kobe Bryant cheating scandal likely won't come near the amount of media attention that surrounded Woods.
Bryant has less to fall and thus less to lose, but that's not to say he doesn't face potential endorsement losses.
Chase noted that sponsors could have put clauses in the sponsorship deals that if Bryant was to get involved in another cheating scandal that the deal could become void. Nike previously stuck with Bryant during the last scandal -- and stuck with Woods during his -- but could have a clause within the sponsorship deal to cut ties if another situation arose.
Bryant also runs the risk of the cheating scandals overshadowing his illustrious basketball career. He is only 33-years old, but has considerable mileage on his knees and might have only a few more years left in the NBA. If the first thing people think about is a scandal, it could ultimately affect future endorsements, value of his memorabilia, and other potential business ventures.
But Chase feels that Bryant's laser-like focus on basketball will help him get through the developing scandal and make people forget about it.
I think he has enough years that this wont be the epitaph on his career, he said. If nothing else, he is so single minded this might drive him even more.
There might be some diminishment, but I think he will have plenty of opportunities.