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.

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkt5RwrQrVU&feature=player_embedded

Here’s the thing: there IS a right answer. Kobe is a grown man and if he decides to take money to do a commercial for Turkish Airlines, that’s his right. Regardless of what he does, Kobe is going to alienate some while drawing praise from others as is the case with most celebs.

Here’s why I have an issue with the Armenians being up in arms about Kobe. In the long history of the world, at some point nearly every group of people has had some kind of dispute with each other. Just like Kobe can do commercials for anyone he wants, Armenians can feel how they want about Turks and Kobe. However, let’s think about if we all acted that way, shall we?

I’m African-American. My people were systematically enslaved by Caucasian-Americans for over 400 years and after slavery ended, there was still systematic racism that even exists today. If Kobe did a commercial for a White person, should I hate him or no longer become a fan of his?

If Kobe drives a German car or does commercials for BMW, should all his Jewish fans dump him too?

My point is that YOUR point that you can’t please everyone is on point. Furthermore, I don’t think any of us have any obligation to anyone on this planet to be civil or politically correct. As for the Armenian/Turk dispute, I COMPLETELY understand why they would want Turkey and the U.S….the world as a whole to recognize that the terrible thing that happened to them WAS in fact the textbook definition of genocide. However, not liking Kobe for doing a commercial for Turkish Airlines is misplaced. No current Turks participated in that genocide…just like none of Kobe’s Armenian fans had to suffer the genocide.

Being Black, I am often times find myself being angry at the U.S. and furious that in this day and age racism is still prevalent in our society. I would also like public acknowledgement of the travesty that happened to MY people addressed. However, I am angry at the the thing that happened, not the descendants of the people who carried out that act.

The only way to move past the horrid acts of the past is to move past the horrid acts of the past. If Kobe is concerned about his Armenian fan base, perhaps he and Kimmie K could do a PSA explaining that while the atrocities of the past are important and not to be forgotten, the first step in rectifying relations between Turks and Armenians is to move forward and stop holding present day Turks responsible for a genocide that happened so long ago.

Of course I am being about facetious about Kim Kardashian (she’s the most prominent Armenian-American I know now that her father passed) but you get my point. If Kobe wants to get those fans back (if he ever really lost them) he just needs to acknowledge it in that way. I think his silence would cost more fans than anything. Having said that, he’s not obligated to to anything.

As a country, the U.S. and its citizens have ALWAYS dealings with countries with shady pasts and human rights violations (sometimes with shady presents, haha). Whether its Germany, Japan, countless dictatorships in Africa…we generally place the almighty dollar over our principles.

Sorry for the long rant.

  • You failed to mention that Germans and the Caucasians admitted their wrongdoings and paid reparations as well. The Turks, however, deny it till this very day and imprison people who even speak on behalf of the Armenian genocide.

  • A small group of Caucasian people enslaved African Americans, the vast majority had no part in it. For thousands of years before that and during and after a larger number of African Americans enslaved other African Americans and other peoples. Middle eastern peoples still have traditions of slavery going on. All of them are systemic. In fact you could say that Caucasians had enslaved less people for a shorter time than any other groups of races or cultures. The difference is that it was actually well documented, as opposed to the Slave trade that went on in the African Continent before Europeans arrived there. In fact, historically, in the mid to late 1850s, Caucasians blew up the Slave fortresses that dotted the coast of Africa. Know your history. But, I agree with your main point.

  • Curtis,

    I’m glad you agreed with me for the most part. It’s hard to find a level head these days and many times people tend to over-react. It seems you understand that it is in our best interests to learn from the past and each other in order to not create the same problems in the future.

    Thanks for your input.

    Daniel

  • @Curtis Macon – The difference between the Turkish Government and the “Whites” and the Germans is that the Turkish Government does not recognize the Armenian Genocide. History books around the world have documented slavery and the Holocaust, but due to the Turkish Govenment’s policital tactics, the Armenian Genocide continues to be unrecognized in many countries around the world.

    I’m Armenian-American-Los Angeleno and I personally don’t have a problem with what Kobe did. I understand that he’s a high-profile star and I don’t expect him to be the poster-child for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide (same way we don’t want him doing the cooking).

    But Buerge makes a great point that it would have been a great gesture to his many Armenian fans in LA to have release a statement, but he doesn’t understand that the Turkish Government would have pulled the plug on his deal if he did that since they are the majority owner of the airline.

    I still got much love for my Lakers. Better those millions go to Kobe’s pockets and into the US economy than staying in Turkey. =)

  • The reason Armenians protest the Turkish Government is because they don’t recognize the Genocide. In order to move on there needs to be recognition of the events that took place.

  • You both hit the nail on the head you guys. Thanks for two wonderful responses I enjoyed reading.

  • You should not comment on things you don’t understand. And clearly, you don’t understand the Armenian genocide issue. Here you are comparing it to the Jewish genocide and African slavery. You are clueless, stay clueless and just make your money because that’s what matters to people like you. You will even sell your mothers and daughters for money. Money is God to people like you.
    It’s true that you cannot make everyone happy. However, it will help if you hire people to mange you and your PR people, to actually have a generalized idea about history and how to protect their client. Afterall this is not the first PR issue he’s had. Remember the video game he did a commercial for? His actions simply mean ignorance! He’s ignorant and so is his management team. Maybe he should spend his money on hiring a new and more educated management team.
    Kobe might be a great basketball player. I’ve been a fan if his game since day 1. Now I refuse to watch any of the Lakers game as long as that ignorant monkey is on that team. I will watch and support the Lakers when he transfers his monkey ass to another team that pays more money.

  • You should not comment on things you don’t understand. And clearly, you don’t understand the Armenian genocide issue. Here you are comparing it to the Jewish genocide and African slavery. You are clueless, stay clueless and just make your money because that’s what matters to people like you. You will even sell your mothers and daughters for money. Money is God to people like you.
    It’s true that you cannot make everyone happy. However, it will help if you hire people to mange you and your PR people, to actually have a generalized idea about history and how to protect their client. Afterall this is not the first PR issue he’s had. Remember the video game he did a commercial for? His actions simply mean ignorance! He’s ignorant and so is his management team. Maybe he should spend his money on hiring a new and more educated management team.
    Kobe might be a great basketball player. I’ve been a fan if his game since day 1. Now I refuse to watch any of the Lakers game as long as that ignorant monkey is on that team. I will watch and support the Lakers when he transfers his monkey ass to another team that pays more money.

  • Curtis, you are right, Kobe has every right to accept that offer. However; what you forget to mention is that unlike slavery and the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide is not considered a genocide at all, it is to this day denied by the Turkish government. I understand where you are coming from, but you have to look at it from a different point-of-view, the people who committed the atrocities of the Holocaust have apologized and paid reparations any way they could; but the Armenians were left with a tiny piece of land no bigger than Orange County. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but it honestly hurts when a man that is as respected as Kobe decides to make a deal with such people.

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