As Bill Cosby’s legal woes involving alleged sexual assault continues to play out in the court room and the public, his once squeaky-clean image is being pushed into the darker corners of history.
After his case was declared a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury, the legendary entertainer walked out freely, yet, blithely chanting his “Fat Albert” slogan on the way out. Even after announcements were made about another prosecution it hasn’t stopped Cosby from making moves for a possible comeback.
Reports claim that not only has he renewed the rights to his show “Fat Albert” but also originally planned to hold a town hall meeting across the country about sexual assault. Although his team, fortunately, changed the planned topic of the town hall meeting to a “restoration of his legacy,” it was already deemed in poor taste.
In the Black community, we’ve seen situations like this many times involving cultural figures like Michael Jackson and R. Kelly. Many also have said this case is as iconic as the O.J. Simpson’s in the mid-1990s. However, with an intense conflict between both sides of the Cosby verdict, it only generates a question about how Cosby’s legacy will be affected in the future.
One of the most important factors around this question regarding the future of Cosby’s career has to be the immediate aftermath of his case against Andrea Constand—the woman who accused Cosby of drugging and violating her in his Pennsylvania mansion in 2004. In the last week alone, there were two jurors that opened up about feeling guilty over the verdict, even describing upset people who broke down in the courtroom. Brooke Dugan told ABC News about the moments following the verdict: “We couldn’t really get down to like a solid thing and that just frustrated people. I have had a regret, I guess, when we came up to the final deadlocked decision and it has kind of been eating my mind, like, this could have all been done with.”
Dugan was on the side of the jury that believed Constand, however, other jurors have conflicting thoughts. One juror said on audio that Cosby had already been through enough these last few years and even mentioned him looking “weathered.” With conflicting perceptions, stories, and lack of physical evidence, the mistrial only left many with no conclusion to one of the most prominent crime cases in the 2010’s.
With the possibilities of more jurors speaking out about their view of the 51-hour deliberation, the mistrial soon poured into Bill Cosby’s current life and career as a cultural figure. The University of Missouri stripped his honorary degree, his face was removed from the side of Ben’s Chilli Bowl and now there are reports stating that he was a gambler. By industry standards, he’s not much liked either. After hearing about Cosby’s town hall tour (before the topic overhaul), showrunner Shonda Rhimes went to Twitter to let people know that she didn’t like the idea. Like many of the past Black celebrities who were able to walk out of a courtroom as a free citizen for situations similar to Cosby’s, it leaves a stain that is difficult to finesse as they continue their career. O.J. Simpson’s trial still lives on through new documentaries and television shows (while he’s still in jail for armed robbery). R. Kelly is walking out of interviews because of his past sexual assault allegations, and there’s still a syndicated episode of “Family Guy” that features a Michael Jackson joke. Recently, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs was released after being falsely accused of sexual assault in Vienna, Austria, and even opened up about how the case—despite his acquittal—left a blemish on his budding career.
In Cosby’s case, his recent actions are bad decisions that hindered any progression post-trial. However, there are still people supporting him even with the verdict as it stands. According to Mashable, Cosby tweeted out pictures of his supporters following the mistrial, and other actors from the “Cosby Show” have stated that the case was more of a tarnishing of his legacy.
His own misguided actions in the last few days don’t help, however, and only foreshadow more to come from him after the case that leaves an asterisk beside the legacy many had once celebrated.