Kobe Bryant appears in Turkish Airlines commercial
If Kobe Bryant's commercial with Turkish Airlines has taught us anything, it's that 1) Bryant should avoid cooking or else Lakers Coach Phil Jackson will jokingly claim that Bryant's work in the kitchen contributes to his numerous finger injuries; 2) Bryant apparently does read his press clippings; and 3) the ad won't sit well with Armenian Americans.
Many of them are upset that Bryant made a two-year deal with Turkey's state-run airline. For years, Armenian Americans have pushed the U.S. government to recognize the early 20th century killings of about 1.5 million Armenians in what was then the Ottoman Empire as genocide, a term the Turkish government has strenuously rejected. Kim Kardashian, the Los Angeles-born Armenian American reality-television star and sister of Lamar Odom's wife, Khloe, tweeted in December for her followers to urge Congress to seek 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," Caspar Jivalagian, executive member of the Armenian Youth Federation's Western region, told The Times in December. "We want to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him a chance to right this wrong."
Despite the controversy, Bryant and Turkish Airlines plan to host a launch party Thursday at Paramount Studios, with a red carpet celebration beginning at 8 p.m.
The commercial itself, which is promoting the March start of nonstop flights between Istanbul and Los Angeles, is pretty lighthearted. Bryant is on a flight the day after missing a potential game-winning shot, a topic the airline's chef brings up when serving him his meal. That sparks the ultra-competitive Bryant to challenge him to play basketball, while the Black Mamba cooks. Both fall flat trying out each other's profession, with the chef lacking athleticism and poorly fighting through screens, and Bryant nearly burning himself and cutting a finger.
"I've never been to Turkey," Bryant said in December on CNBC, which reported that Turkish Airlines made a $515-million profit in 2009. “But all the guys on the team in the league who have been keep saying it's one of the hottest places to go to ... and it obviously makes sense with them starting flights from L.A."
-- Mark Medina
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