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Kobe Bryant’s Turkish Airlines commercial — and controversy

Mar 3, 2011, 1:26 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Getty Images

Kobe Bryant pretty much walks on water in Los Angeles, he has a helicopter shuttle him to work from his home and nobody bats an eyelash.

But he has angered one pretty large segment of the Los Angeles melting pot. (Well, L.A. is not so much a melting pot as a cobb salad, the individuality of ethnic divides and communities are still there, but everybody mingles together, too.)

The commercial below for Turkish Airlines, a company Kobe now endorses. The ad is fairly amusing, I guess (although do they really have a chef on board their flights handing out gourmet meals?). Mark Medina at the L.A. Times Lakers blog first found the ad and he notes there is a launch party coming up in Hollywood.

Where this gets controversial is there is large Armenian community in Los Angeles (hundreds of thousands) who have a big issue with Turkey. It all dates back nearly hundred years to the final days of the Ottoman Empire around World War I. We’re not going to get into politics here, but the worldwide Armenian community and most scholars called what happened over a three-year period when hundreds of thousands of Armenians were killed a genocide. Turkey has always vehemently protested that label saying civil strife at the time caused deaths on both sides.

Kobe has some frustrated Armenian fans now in Southern California for taking on this endorsement, as we detailed before. There has been talk of a boycott. For him, this is clearly a business deal and he said that he has never even been to Turkey. Kobe’s not talking about any of the issues here. He’s the world’s most popular athlete right now and he is cashing in on that with a major international endorsement.

But he put his toe is some pretty hot water here.

  1. loungefly74 - Mar 3, 2011 at 1:38 PM

    some people needs to lighten up…especially something thats over 100 years old that they are mad about. I thought the commercial was hilarious.

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 3, 2011 at 1:48 PM

    Commercial was hilarious and I don’t even like Kobe. Some people will look for the controversy and negativity in anything.

  3. gqrlh - Mar 3, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    Sometimes people always want to find something on you to dislike you more. But you just have to be careful, and mindful before you do things. The one thing I have learned about Kobe, is that people dislike him for personal reasons, not because he is the best player in the game of basketball right now. We still got you Kobe!! People don’t like greatness, but greatness recognize greatness! Kobe, you are a great basketball player!

    The End.

  4. shaqfor3 - Mar 3, 2011 at 2:34 PM

    There is nothing wrong with this ad. People need to lighten up and stop trying to drag politics into everything.

  5. Chris Carter - Mar 3, 2011 at 3:52 PM

    I read the article, then watched the video, waiting for Kobe to say something derogatory towards the Chef’s ethnicity or something to that effect.

    It never happened.

    I can’t believe people would crucify him for something like this. It’s an AD.

  6. rapmusicmademedoit - Mar 3, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    The problem is not the commercial, I believe the Turkish airline in Gov’t owned and they do not recognize the genocide they talk of committed by the Ottoman Empire, if you read the article this would have been very clear.

    brooklyn laker fan

  7. craigw24 - Mar 3, 2011 at 6:55 PM

    I live in Glendale and am very aware of Armenian attitudes toward Turkey. I don’t really have a problem with their registering dismay at Kobe supporting Turkish Airlines – it is their right. The ad itself is pretty funny and has no real slant – other than the Turkish Airlines heading. We are just not used to seeing ads from companies based in other cultures. With the way the world is developing, I think we better be prepared to see more ads from elsewhere in the world. Kobe seems to be ahead of the times once again.

  8. omniusprime - Mar 4, 2011 at 9:18 AM

    A real shame that Kobe is dissed for doing a funny, entertaining ad for Turkish Airlines and has to get dragged into the whole Armenian genocide case from 100 years ago. Sometimes an ad is just an ad and people need to stop dragging politics into everything. Yes Turkey should admit that the old Ottoman Empire did commit genocide against the Armenians in WW1, but it’s not Kobe’s job to enforce that. I’m glad that Kobe is doing something positive for American-Turkish relations.

    Oh and Kobe Bryant is the greatest basketball player in the world and the Repeat World Champion Lakers will Threepeat this June!

    • fouldwimmerlaik - Mar 4, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      I am hoping to have a baby with Kobe.

  9. fouldwimmerlaik - Mar 4, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    I love Kobe. He is my hero and he could never do ANYTHING wrong.

  10. semitendinosus - Mar 6, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    I’m a Turk from Istanbul, Turkey. I do not deny the genocide and would like to see the state officially recognize it. It is true that the civil strife at the time caused deaths from both sides, but it doesn’t justify the ethnical cleansing which was carried out by the generals of the Ottoman Empire. Hundreds of Armenians had to convert, pretend to be Turks and take refuge at their Turkish houses, which proves all Turks at that time can’t be blamed for it, let alone taking it on current Turkish citizens. Same generals caused deaths of 100.000 Turkish soldiers in one single war, most of them were frozen due to inadequate winter clothing, before they were even able to reach their target. It is safe to say they were sick over their crazy ideals. A murderer is murderer, I’ll not deny it even if it is my father. I don’t care who it was done by, it was a genocide. Ethnical cleansing didn’t end there, next step was to Turkify non-Turks, nationalism/racism caused so many problems for the country, the biggest at the moment is Kurdish problem, which still remains.

    Secondly, I’ve never used Turkish Airlines, no personal experience with them though I worked for tourism industry and know they’re good. But come on, racism and nationalism caused so much trouble not just for one country, but for the entire planet. Raising voice for what Kobe did is just another act of racism. No, I don’t like my countries policies (As an anarchist, hate to call any country “mine”), no, I never used Turkish Airlines, but I like the commercial and criticizing Kobe for taking part in it is sick. Kobe did not comment on the genocide, Kobe did not talk about WW1 hoax with pride, Kobe didn’t boast about Turkey over Armenia. A worldwide famous athlete can participate in a commercial of a Turkish company, a celebrity can participate in a concert organized by Turkish organizers, these all don’t help genocide be denied, so why all the fuss? If you want to get anything good, you should firstly avoid looking like a lunatic.

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