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Kobe deal w/ Turkish airline angers Armenians

Kobe Bryant's sponsorship with Turkish Airlines has many Armenian Americans outraged.

December 15, 2010 12:41:15 AM PST
Turkish Airlines announced Tuesday that Lakers star Kobe Bryant is its new global brand ambassador. That has many from the Armenian American community outraged.The two-year sponsorship deal is coming under fire by Armenian Americans in Southern California due to Turkey's continued refusal to recognize the early 20th century killings of Armenians in Turkey as genocide.

"I'm really hoping he doesn't realize the magnitude of this, I'm hoping it's clear oversight that he was just misinformed or uninformed," said Caspar Jivalagian of the Armenian Youth Federation.

Bryant has yet to issue a statement regarding the Armenian-American community's reaction.

Prior to the controversy, Bryant said on the Turkish Airlines' website that "Turkey is a country rich in natural beauty and thousands of years of cultural history, and I'm proud to partner with Turkish Airlines to bring that majesty to people around the world."

"I don't hate him," said Jivalagian, a life-long Lakers fan. "I don't think it's too late to take back what he's done. I'm hoping that he's going to right this wrong.

Kim Kardashian, an Armenian American, has asked her 5.5 million followers on Twitter to urge House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on House Resolution 252, which would recognize the Armenian Genocide.

Bryant's teammate, Lamar Odom, is married to Kardashian's sister, Khloe.

"I'm sure she would be upset because her grandparents or great grandparents are for sure survivors of the Armenian Genocide," Jivalagian said.

Starting in April of 1915, an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed in Turkey over an eight-year period.

While no American president has recognized the Armenian Genocide, many of the 300,000 Armenian Americans in Los Angeles would like to see the city's sports celebrity do so.

"We want him to be a champion of human rights, too," Jivalagian said.

The deal calls for Bryant to be featured in TV ads in 80 countries.


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