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.