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Italian Firm Dropping Bryant

August 05, 2003|Lance Pugmire;Christine Hanley

The maker of Nutella chocolate spread said Monday it is phasing out endorsements from Kobe Bryant in part because of the sexual assault charge against the NBA superstar.

Ferrero, an Italian company with U.S. headquarters in Somerset, N.J., said its contract with the Laker guard expires in January.

"Marketing plans established earlier this year did not contemplate a contract renewal," the company said in a statement. "In keeping with this decision, and considering the recent developments, Kobe's image on Nutella labels and promotional material is being phased out."

Bryant has a multimillion-dollar sneaker deal with Nike and contracts with Sprite, McDonald's and Spalding.

Even before he was charged, marketing experts predicted the assault case could cost him more than $100 million in potential earnings.

Nike has said its deal with Bryant remains in place. Coca-Cola Co. spokesman Scott Williamson said Monday that Bryant has been under contract with Sprite since 1997 and remains under contract until 2005.

Bryant appeared in Sprite commercials through the first week of July, but there are no plans to use him in ads through the end of the year, Williamson said. He said the plan was developed before the sexual assault allegation.

Ferrero manufactures Nutella, a hazelnut-and-chocolate spread popular in Europe. Bryant spent part of his childhood living in Italy.

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Bryant's prosecutors contend in a court brief released publicly Monday that unsealing the court file of the case would make it "difficult, if not impossible" for him to receive a fair trial in Colorado.

"The national and local media have contributed to a circus-like atmosphere in and around the Eagle County Courthouse, and Town of Eagle," deputy district attorney Nathaniel P. Fehrmann wrote in the brief dated July 23. "Not only has the media interfered with the ongoing investigation, but it has served as a source of harassment to [the] victim and her family."

Eagle County Judge Frederick Gannett is weighing whether to unseal the file, which includes witness statements and law enforcement details of the alleged sexual assault. Gannett could make his decision this week.

Fehrmann writes that "great harm could come not only to the victim's reputation, but also to [her] physical well-being."

While acknowledging the file may contain "inadmissible hearsay statements," Fehrmann said some details in the affidavit in support of arrest "have already been corroborated by the media [and] would seal the guilt of [Bryant] in the mind of public opinion."

Earlier in the day, Gannett denied the district attorney's attempt to bar the use of a still and television camera during Bryant's hearing Wednesday.

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-- Lance Pugmire

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Police clarified Monday that neither of the two 911 calls from Bryant's Newport Beach home this year were for domestic violence. "There is no indication of domestic violence or any criminal activity for either of those calls," Newport Beach Police Lt. John Klein said. Both were for medical assistance.

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-- Christine Hanley

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