The flood of Kobe Bryant memorabilia in the aftermarket following his death in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26 has drawn renewed scrutiny in the days following the Celebration of Life memorial held for the NBA star on Monday. Following the event, which featured several exclusive items for sale to attendees, were soon found on eBay for hundreds, and often thousands, of dollars. Now, some photographs from the actual scene of the crash taken by first responders have been circulating as well.
Denver D’Rozario, a marketing professor at Howard University in Washington who studies the use of dead celebrities in marketing, offered his thoughts on the topic to The Los Angeles Times.
"People flock to celebrity memorabilia because it gives them something tangible to hold onto and a sense of connection with a person they love who has just passed away," D'Rozario said. "The death of any celebrity is going to be memorialized by some fans, but when that celebrity dies tragically, that memorialization, the number of people who want to memorialize them and the intensity of the memorialization increases."
Since news of Bryant's memorabilia flooding eBay, the site has been taking down many of the listings, citing a terms of service violation that prevents sales that "items that attempt to profit from human tragedy or suffering are not allowed to be sold."
Along with the overwhelming amount of shirts, jerseys, sneakers and jackets, domain names were quickly created in the wake of the tragedy, including 'kobebryanthelicopter.com' and 'kobedead.com', which were also meant solely to be sold off for a huge profit.
A high-profile intellectual property attorney who has extensive experience with sports also spoke about the situation to the LAT, albeit on the condition of anonymity.
"There are these kind of opportunities in the short term where people seize the moment and exploit his name, image and likeness, the attorney explained. "You get the immediate bad actors doing things at a low level, but the system eventually prevents any long-term control or damage and gives the family control over it and sets things right."
On Monday, Vanessa Bryant, the wife of the late NBA star, also filed a lawsuit against Island Express Helicopters Inc. over the death of her husband and 13-year-old daughter. The lawsuit also alleges that both of them may have survived the initial impact, which she argues entitles her family for compensation over their "pain and anguish."