Kobe Bryant — a Lakers player is starring in commercials for Turkish Airlines. Turkish Airlines is half owned by the Turkish government, and both the airline and the government are genocide deniers, making Kobe a paid spokesman for them.
Did Kobe Lie?
Once A Voice to End Genocide in Darfur, Kobe Bryant Now Promotes Sudan’s Ally in Denial and 20th Century’s First Perpetrator of Genocide
December 16th, 2010
In 2008, Kobe Bryant was a strong voice calling for an end to the genocide in Darfur, but today, he has signed a deal to represent the Republic of Turkey, which denies any genocide in Darfur and is the infamous perpetrator of the first Genocide of the 20th century.
In May 27, 2008 Bryant made a public service announcement through the Los Angeles-based non-profit Aid Still Required, urging action to unite to end the Genocide in Darfur.
“In Darfur hundreds of thousands have been murdered, mutilated, families torn apart. Please take a stand with us. We have the power to save lives, to restore lives,” Bryant said in the PSA, published on Youtube. “If we can unite people, who are willing to take a stand, miracles can happen.”
Since 2003, the Sudanese government in Khartoum has slaughtered half a million people in Darfur, while forcibly uprooting nearly 3 million more from their homes in February 2003. The Sudanese government, like the Republic of Turkey, denies it is committing genocide.
Turkey is among Sudan’s greatest allies, covering up its genocide and providing arms to the Sudanese government, led by Omar al-Bashir, who has been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
In November 2009, Turkey came under intense international criticism for agreeing to host al-Bashir. Turkey’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, even defended his ally, refusing to arrest al-Bashir and denying the genocide in Darfur. According to Erdogan, there was no genocide raging in Darfur, the international warrant for his arrest was a “mistake,” and Bashir may simply have only “mismanaged the situation.”
As 2010 comes to an end, Bryant finds himself again in the headlines over the issue of Genocide. This time, however, not as the anti-genocide activist he seemed to be in 2008, but as what appears to be an accomplice to the denial of at least two genocides.
Earlier this week Kobe signed a two-year agreement with Turkey’s national airline carrier to serve as its “global ambassador,” effectively becoming the face and image of the company and its manager, the Turkish Republic.
Kobe’s decision has caused uproar within the Armenian-American community in the United States and especially within Southern California, which boasts the largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, ranging between 600,000 to 750,000.
Armenians are angered that Bryant would sign a contract with a country that not only denies that the Ottoman Turkish government committed genocide against 1.5 million Armenians in 1915 , but also actively works to defend modern day perpetrators of the crime.
“We don’t understand how Kobe could forget about Darfur and overlook Turkey’s gross record on human rights and its complicity and support for the genocide there,” said Caspar Jivalegian of the Armenian Youth Federation. “It is troubling that the very country that perpetrated the first genocide of the 20th century and actively supports the first genocide of the 21st century, is now contracting a strong opponent of the Darfur genocide to represent its global brand.”
For Jivalegian, Bryant’s decision and his complete silence on the matter sets a very bad example for young fans who “look up to Kobe both on and off the court.”
“Kobe is not just a basketball player, he is local, national, and global a role model with a responsibility to set a positive example to the millions of people who look up to him and support him,” Jivalegian said, adding that Bryant made a poor play by signing a deal with a Genocide perpetrator after making a video calling for an end to genocide in Darfur. “This shows a disconnect between Kobe and the many communities that make up Los Angeles and the Lakers fan base.”
Armenian Americans hope that Kobe would balance what clearly looks to be a profitable business deal with a strong moral statement against Turkey’s violations of human rights, including its ongoing denial of the Armenian Genocide.
“Turkish Airlines is not like United or American–it was founded by the Turkish government, which still owns some 49 percent of the company. They are supporters of groups like the American Turkish Council who lobby against U.S. Affirmation of the Armenian Genocide,” said Jivalegian.
“Kobe is a champion on the basketball court, and we look to him to be a champion of human rights by speaking truthfully about the Armenian Genocide, supporting U.S. Congressional passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution (H.Res.252) – and ultimately dropping this ill-advised endorsement deal,” Jivalegian added.
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Think Again: Kobe should think about deal
March 11, 2011 | 3:35 p.m.
The news of Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s latest endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines broke in late December, creating a major uproar. TV ads started running in March and it has fueled the outcry even further.
The reason Kobe is being challenged is because of Turkey’s continued denial of the Armenian Genocide. If you’re a fan of Kobe and the Lakers, before coming to his defense, take a moment to consider the circumstances. You may still choose to disagree in the end, but make an attempt to leave the purple jersey on the hanger for just a few more minutes.
The facts in this situation make it more problematic than a straightforward endorsement deal. First, Turkish Airlines is half owned by the government of Turkey, which not only can’t come to terms with its genocidal history, but which also actively spends tens of millions of dollars each year trying to rewrite history and deny the Armenian Genocide. The Turkish government lines the pockets of elected leaders and academics, rewarding anyone willing to prostitute themselves in the service of genocide denial.
Some argue that the genocide denial is by the Turkish government, and not the airline, which points to a second fact. After the controversy broke, Fatma Yuceler, the airline’s western region director, released a statement saying, “Kobe Bryant is a cultural figure, not a historian, and is in no way related to a sensitive and complex controversy over highly contested history.”
With that statement, Yuceler, the senior airline representative, made it evident that Turkish Airlines supports the Turkish government’s genocide denial. This is no surprise, since the airline is half owned by the government. It’s also not surprising since the Turkish government consistently uses Turkish businesses and business relationships with American corporations to enlist support for genocide denial.
This situation is no different than when American corporations and brand ambassadors, like Bryant, were pressured to distance themselves from the apartheid regime in South Africa or the Sudanese government that has been committing genocide in Darfur. This is a matter of drawing the line and demonstrating corporate social responsibility.
In this case, the Lakers have a large fan base of families who have lost members in the Armenian Genocide and the memory is very fresh because of the continued genocide denial by the Turkish government, and now Turkish Airlines, as well.
Kobe and the Lakers management have a responsibility to the public and cannot dismiss this situation. At minimum, Kobe and the Lakers must meet with representatives of the Armenian community. They also must issue a statement that honors the victims of the Armenian Genocide and show their fans that they distance themselves from the genocide denial by Turkish Airlines and its governmental underwriter.
If they don’t, then they and the National Basketball Assn. are demonstrating their callousness as a pure moneymaking machine that has no regard for the community in which they have been granted the right to operate.
If you have any doubts about what genocide denial leads to, consider what was posted on the Yahoo Sports page on March 4 in response to a story on this issue. The post read, “F all of you Armenians out there, get over it, they died big deal….He is a businessman and it’s all about money. You guys should know that with your credit card fraud and parking your range rover in a 400-dollar a month apartment, living with your parent….Where is another genocide of Armenians when you need 1.”
This should be a wake-up call for Kobe, his misguided agent, and Lakers management. They need to decide which side of the issue they are going to line up on and should think very hard before taking the shot. Their reputation is riding on this.
ZANKU ARMENIAN is a resident of Glendale and a corporate communications professional. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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