Black athletes have always taken the spotlight when it comes to crime in the media. The media makes a point to put a greater emphasis on these players, as to demean them. Their off the field problems say more about them than their performance on it. The legacy of some players have been tainted because of this. Once the media takes hold of a legal trouble, they run with it.
In the case of Kobe, he had the opportunity to quickly make his fans forget about his troubles. Michael Wilbon commented on the incident stating that this was important for him to keep his name amongst the basketball elite. Kobe was not just another ball player, but this charge had put him into a category with a fair number of other players. Players that we not meant to be role models, but were just thugs and criminals that were good enough to play on an NBA team. Kobe was supposed to be better than that, yet he stooped down to their level and committed a crime that is directly connected to his race.
The comparison to O.J. is an interesting one though. O.J. was seen as a white criminal, because at the time he was seen as a member of the white community. He became the victim in his own case, as the media portrayed him as being attacked by the accusations. The race card was not played against him as the black man he actually was. He was not seen as a murderer. At the time, he was not placed amongst the race, but rather the exception or an outlier. America's colorblindness through sports is exemplified by this. All of a players actions are judged based on the race that classifies his or her actions.