One group won’t be joining the Staples Center crowd in chanting “M-V-P! M-V-P!” for Kobe Bryant the next time he’s at the charity stripe: namely, Los Angeles’ Armenian population.
On Tuesday, Turkish Airlines (also current sponsor of Euroleague basketball) announced a two-year deal which would make Bryant the “global brand ambassador” for the airline beginning in 2011 as TA begins non-stop flights from Los Angeles to Istanbul. Kobe told CNBC, “This is another deal for me that proves that we’re global … And it obviously makes sense with them starting flights from L.A.”
What doesn’t make sense to Armenians in the City of Angels, however, is Bryant’s taking of a contract with the national flag carrier airline representing the country they see as responsible for the Armenian Holocaust.
The main voice in the calls against Bryant – and they who called BallinEurope’s attention to the matter – hail from the Armenian Youth Federation, an awareness-raising group that works with Armenian-Americans (including an estimated 300,000-plus in Los Angeles and 700,000-plus in California) through various programs and events, with emphasis on events perpetrated during the Ottoman Empire through to the 1920s which resulted in up to 1.5 million deaths.
In the past several days, the AYF has made it clear in the media that “Armenian Youth Federation offices throughout Southern California have … been bombarded with phone calls from concerned Armenian youth asking for a call to action.”
The call to action thus far has taken the usual 21st-century routes: lots of local media appeals to Southern California TV and social networking. AYF also reported that, directly after the announcement from Turkish Airlines, “disappointed callers flooded the lines of AM 570, the Laker radio station for over 30 years.”
Though no formal protest action has yet to be called, the AYF is seeking Bryant to “put out an official statement affirming his commitment to ending human rights abuses and voicing his support for House Resolution 252.”
Interestingly, Armenian fans of the Lakers have an even more complex relationship with their favorite team: Kim Kardashian, a.k.a. Lamar Odom’s sister-in-law, has recently been speaking out about what Armenians sometimes call “The Great Crime,” urging action on said resolution in the House of Representatives. Kardashian is half-Armenian by heritage.
As for the top ball player in the land, president Barack Obama has toned down some campaign rhetoric on the subject, when he stated in part that “Two years ago, I criticized the Secretary of State for the firing of U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Evans, after he properly used the term ‘genocide’ to describe Turkey’s slaughter of thousands of Armenians starting in 1915. … as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.” Today, the much-esteemed PolitiFact deems this a broken promise of Obama’s.