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Kobe Bryant’s deal with Turkish Airlines outrages Armenian Americans

KobeLakers star Kobe Bryant's two-year endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines has sparked protest among Armenian Americans in Los Angeles and nationwide, some threatening to boycott the basketball player unless he backs out of the contract.

In a statement announcing the deal, Turkish Airlines described Bryant as a "global brand ambassador." The airline is seeking to publicize the start of nonstop flights in March from Istanbul to Los Angeles with the basketball star appearing in a blitz of TV, billboard, print and online ads early next year.

For years, Armenian Americans have pushed the U.S. to recognize the early 20th century killings of some 1.5 million Armenians in what was then the Ottoman Empire as genocide, a term the Turkish government has strenuously rejected.

California has 600,000 to 700,000 Armenians, with a heavy concentration in Southern California, said Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.

"Many of them are fans of the Lakers and fans of Kobe, at least until now," he said.

Armenians especially object to the airline's close connection to the Turkish government, he said.

"This is not a matter of a private company that Kobe has signed a deal with," Hamparian said. "It's a state carrier with a heavy government affiliation."

The Lakers did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Many outraged fans have taken to radio and social media sites to protest the deal, and some have threatened to boycott Lakers games and Bryant merchandise, said Caspar Jivalagian, executive member of the Armenian Youth Federation's Western region.

"There's a clear backlash already," he said. "People have been calling us, saying, 'I hate Kobe' and 'I won't watch the Lakers anymore.' "

Some Armenians have called on Bryant to show remorse by using his fame to push U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) to schedule a vote on House Resolution 252, which would recognize the Armenian deaths as genocide.

"Kobe is a champion of national basketball and should be a champion of human rights," Jivalagian said. "We want to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance to right this wrong."


Descendants of Armenian genocide victims sue Turkey

-- Shan Li

Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (186)

Unfortunately, young kids look up to professional basketball players as heroes and role models. Kobe should set an example to those kids that human rights violations will not be tolerated and cut his ties with Turkish Airlines. The sentiment "get over it" is an insult to the 1.5 million Armenians who died in the genocide.

Kobe gets money from Turkey for endorsing their airline.
Armenians wants to get (extort) money from Turkey by accusing them of genocide. The difference = Money, Money, Money, case closed.

Big Game Hunter said it best. Just get over it. Americans are so full of it. All anybody does in America is net pick on stupid things. No body even thought about the Turkey intell Kobe was going to do this commercial. So I say to Kobe from Your truest biggest fan... Just Do You!

I don't think Kobe gives a damn because probably he googled and saw the photos of innocent Turkish women and children killed by traitor armenian gangs during WWI. In every war, there is loss of civilians but what I see is that (many) armenians just care about their casualties, they never want to see the truth that their grandfathers betrayed the country they used to live in...

Leave Kobe Alone....He's not part of your mess.

Look people, Kobe is just someone taking advantage of a great opportunity...It's this reason foreigners have flocked to the United States for a few hundred years now. He's an entertainer, not a politician.

A little bit of Armenian history. Armenian's in the German Army during WWII. The 812 Battalion.
This famous 812th Battalion developed into an "Armenian Legion" of 20,000-strong with the efforts of Alfred Muradian, a German-Armenian, and by Armik Jamalian, the son of the Arshak Jamalian, the Foreign Minister of the short-lived Armenian Republic. The troops of this Legion were trained and led by the SS and its Security Division S.D., and they joined the Nazi Einsatz Gruppen in the invasion of the Crimea and the North Caucasus. These Armenian Battalions rendered valuable services to the Nazis as police units for internal security duties in the occupied territories. Lets not forget that the Armenians were part of the Nazi war machine.

Ugh, these Armenians seem to FORGET that many Pontian GREEKS were killed, too! I am Greek and this angers me. Every time we Greeks mention what the Turks did to us for 400 years, we ALSO mention what the Armenians AND OTHER PEOPLES went through with the Turks.


Mention what the secret Jews/openly Muslim Young Turks (from the Donme) did to ALL of us because we are ALL Orthodox Christians here in the same struggle. It was the Communist Abraham Benaroya, a Jew from Ottoman Thessaloniki that created the Young Turks to DESTROY Christianity, along with Hellenism.

The Turkish leaders for many years are detestable, wicked agents of the Jewish-British ruling/banking elite for years. They have served the West (and America today) as their puppets in the ME for the sake of their own interests.

At least, though today, Erdogan has condemned Israel for murdering the peace activists in the Summer Flotilla raid this year. Their are many turkish citizens who love and support Greeks, Armenians and others, but THEY need to speak out on this issue and get their government to recognize what their ancestors did to us.

America WILL NOT recognize what the Turks did to Armenians or other groups because America NEEDS Turkey as an ally.

Kobe doesn't give a flying you-know-what.


Sports figures may not be accountable for foreign relations, but they set example for millions. Kobe is a role model for millions of kids; kids who come from many different countries and backgrounds. The fact that he is signing a contract with a company from Turkey, a country that can't even face the mistakes for the past and take ownership for what was done, has a direct influence on millions of fans. Obviously this is just another business deal for Kobe, but it's a big dissapointment for all of the Armenian diaspora in CA. He has been supported and loved since the first days of his career here, and he should take a step back and think about the example he is gonna be setting for millions of people.

@Tatjana What should we be grateful for? The slaughter of 1.5 innocent Armenians? that's half of today's population in Armenia!! So we should give up the fight because you're too lazy to stand up for YOUR people and confront the hate that you face?? Get over yourself please!

im half german and half turkish..now riddle me that?

if you want to see real armenian justice ,search 'hocali' from internet.armenians dont care about justice,human rights or security they just want to feed their egos,if they want to look their past they should look what they did at hocali

Armenians are doing a good job of publicizing their historical plight. However the present Turkish regime are not the Ottoman Empire.
Armenians are now trying to punish Kobe for a crime he had nothing to do with and . Surely we are not all asked to boycut Germany for Nazi war crimes. Nor do we boyc0t Russia for Soviet excesses. In fact Russia has probably killed more Armenians than Turkey but the Armenians are not too eager to confront Russia.

this is great news. Now perhaps I can get a decent seat at the game.

Everyone in America is getting tired of hearing about what took place in WW1 with Armenians. And the hatred the Armenian people has for everyone around the world. The issue of genocide or no genocide is between Turkey and Armenia, and has nothing to do with America. Kobe is, and will always be supported by his fans no matter what Armenians and their organizations claim. What’s very interesting? Armenians are against Kobe Bryant for being a spokes person for the Turkish airlines, and by the way Turkey is one of our best allies, but support Armenia for selling weapons to Iran to kill American soldiers. Interesting culture isn’t it.

Listen, we Armenian's have held a "grudge" against Turkey because for nearly a century now, they have denied the Armenian Genocide ever took place. In fact, their primary objective is to whitewash history by actively eroding the historical context of the Armenian Genocide. You cannot tell us to "get over it” when Turkey has made NO attempt to right this wrong. Instead, the Turkish government has done everything it can do to convince the world this never happened.

Furthermore, don't judge the entire Armenian community by the actions of a small, but publically visible, minority. Not all Armenians drive BMWs, Benzes, and commit fraud. I drive a Ford and I follow the rules!

To JDEE, You forgot about Armenians selling weapons to Iran to Kill American soldiers. You contribute so much.

I checked the Wikipedia article on Kemal Ataturk. He was a celebrated statesman, widely honored in his country and around the world -


Contrary to one of the statements made by Hagop Bogossian, the historical evidence tying the person of Kemal Ataturk to the killings of Armenians is pretty thin.

In any case, if there is a commercial deal between Turkish airlines, one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, and Kobe Bryant, there is no real reason why the Armenian community should figure into the picture. Unfortunately there is a chance the real losers in this non controversy could be the Armenian community themselves.

The Real Genocide began when Immigration opened the flood gates to let these people in. It killed a great city

What does he have to do with the Armenian people? why do people come here from a different country and now every American has to take their side? go ahead and boycott, were still going to stand by our American people...GO Back Home!!!

Hey MikeP,
We can't move back to the old country because the Turks took everything we owned, killed 1.5 million of us, and the lucky ones were spread all over the world. My grandparents had to leave with what they could carry with them and they narrowly escaped death.

Wow, again armenians self centeredness rears its ugly head. This is coming from a group of people where they shun other races and promote race pride virulently. Grow up my friends, the world doesn't revolve around your race.

I am a Kobe fan and an Armenian American. I understand why some people and even Kobe Bryant himself may not have thought how this may upset Armenian Americans. Los Angeles is the largest populated city of Armenians outside of Armenia. A great percentage of his fans are Armenian Americans. April 24th, 1915 was the Armenian Genocide perpetuated by the Turkish people. To this day, Turkey denies it ever happened. This is why it's been so difficult for Armenians to forgive them. With the Jewish Holocaust, the difference is that the Germans have accepted that they did it so the Jewish people have been able to forgive them. It's disappointing to see an athlete you admire so much and are a big fan of to sign an endorsement deal that would help the country who massacred your ancestors become prosperous. It is hard to swallow.

This is an Armenian problem with Turkey, not an American problem. Kobe,plays for the Lakers. If the Armernians boycott games. That means other
people can go now,who enjoy the sport. And, thats what basketball should be about.

I'm appalled by the racist comments in response to this article. Instead of debating the issue respectfully, a disturbing number of people are asking Armenians to "go home" so that the US can be rid of them. All of these hateful comments are completely backward and unacceptable in a society that prides itself on its tolerance for all peoples.

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