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Kobe Loses Sponsor and Court Request

08/05/2003 9:58AM

A rare loss for Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant -- in court, not on the court.

The NBA star, 24, currently facing charges of sexual assault in Colorado, lost a bid on Monday to keep cameras out of the courtroom, reports Reuters. He also lost one of his commercial sponsors.

The Italian-based manufacturer of Nutella said it was dropping Bryant as a spokesman for the hazelnut spread, saying in a statement that having considered the recent developments, it has started to phase out Bryant's image on its labels and promotional items.

No salary for the Bryant-Nutella deal has been reported, but the Laker guard has multimillion-dollar contracts with Nike, McDonald's, Spalding and Sprite.

In their attempt to prevent televising the legal proceedings against their client, Bryant's lawyers cited the O.J. Simpson murder trial, arguing that press coverage could interfere with Bryant's right to a fair trial.

But the jurist did not agree. "Defendant's objections are general in nature and do not allege any specific prejudice which may result from expanded media coverage of the advisement (hearing)," Eagle County Judge Fred Gannett said in his three-page written ruling.

Bryant is due in court Wednesday to hear the charges against him, which stem from rape accusations by a 19-year-old female employee of a hotel Bryant visited in late June. He stands charged with class 3 sexual assault, the equivalent of rape under Colorado law.

Bryant insists the sex he had with the woman was consensual.

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