Kobe Stirs Pot With Turkish Airlines Commercial

It seems that in today’s world people are far too sensitive. There is always the fear that something may not be politically correct and could offend somebody. My personal opinion is that with nearly seven billion people on the planet no matter what you say somebody might take offense to it. Generally in situations such as these I just chalk the controversy up to people being thin-skinned.

The latest debate in this ongoing arena concerns Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant and a recent commercial he made for Turkish Airlines. The commercial itself is anything but controversial, but the details surrounding the commercial are where the colors begin to turn gray. In order to understand this gray area you must first understand the history behind the controversy.

The city of Los Angeles mirrors the country it sits in in many ways. Perhaps the biggest similarity is the diversity of its citizens. Los Angeles has nearly four million residents, and is the second largest city in the United States. Each resident comes from a different background and culture, and the combination of these cultures is what makes Los Angeles unique.

Somewhere in that 3.8 million are about 100,000 Armenian-Americans. Just like the rest of the members of Los Angeles, many of them are dedicated basketball fans that love the Los Angeles Lakers and their fearless leader, Kobe Bryant. Now, the reason any of this is relevant goes back to Bryant’s decision to star in a commercial for Turkish Airlines.

For those who aren’t familiar with the background history I’ll provide a brief lesson. Back in the early 20th century nearly 1.5 million people were murdered in an attempt to eliminate the Armenian population from the then-Ottoman Empire. In several ways it was similar to the Jewish holocaust of World War II that would take place several decades later, as Armenian civilians were rounded up and massacred.

A recent political movement has arisen in an attempt to label these systematic killings as genocide, but so far the Turkish and United States governments have refused to declare it as such. As you can imagine, this is a great source of unrest for people of Armenian descent all over the globe.

Now while this may be an interesting history lesson, what does it really have to do with basketball? The answer is nothing. Kobe Bryant may be a public figure, but he doesn’t have an obligation to uphold the rights and culture of everybody who may or may not be a fan of his. Bryant has the right to do whatever he wants and promote whatever company offers him the most money. This is why personally I have no issues with Bryant choosing to do the commercial. But the greater issue at hand is whether Bryant should feel the obligation to turn down such opportunities. Do commercials like this one have a negative impact on Bryant’s public reputation?

While it is impossible to make everybody happy, a situation like this seems remarkably clear to me. Bryant shouldn’t feel guilty about participating in the ad, but there is a chance that he still didn’t take the best approach to the situation. There is no question that Bryant’s intentions were not to alienate an entire portion of his fanbase, but he may have unwittingly done so. The solution is quite simple, as all that was needed was a small statement from Bryant. Even if Turkish Airlines offered Bryant a deal that was too good to pass up, Bryant’s people still could have released a statement that indicated this was not a political gesture. But even then, would that kill the debate?

Questions like these are the ones that really divide people purely because there is no right and wrong answer. No matter what a person feels about this situation it is nothing more than an opinion. The facts are simple – Bryant participated in a commercial for a Turkish company. The opinions that arise from these facts are anything but simple. When you’re a star on the level that Bryant is, it is almost impossible for any decision to not be endlessly scrutinized. That’s something that comes with the territory of fame.

Whether you like it or not, Bryant’s commercial cannot be undone. It isn’t up to us to decide whether or not Bryant should have done it or not, but to listen to one another and accept each other’s opinions on the topic, even if we disagree.


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