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Kobe Bryant's deal with Turkish Airlines has angered many Armenian Americans

December 16, 2010 |  8:49 am


Kobe Bryant's newest endorsement agreement has sparked protests and incited boycotts among Armenian Americans in Los Angeles.

He made a two-year deal with Turkish Airlines, which is trying to promote the start of nonstop flights in March from Istanbul to Los Angeles.

Some Armenian Americans have taken that as a slight, considering that, 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 people of Armenian descent, according to 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.

Bryant is to be the poster boy of the campaign, his face plastered on billboards, and print, television and online ads early as next year.

Some Armenians are calling for Bryant to use 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," said Casper Jivalagian, executive member of the Armenian Youth Federation's Western region. "We want to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance to right this wrong."

--Melissa Rohlin

Photo: Kobe Bryant. Credit: Michael Hickey / US Presswire.