Controversy over new Turkish Airlines spokesman Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant Turkish Airlines spokesmanIn order to promote the upcoming new Los Angeles-Istanbul flights, the new Turkish Airlines spokesman Kobe Bryant has prompted some protest in the Armenian American community. Turkey (as well as the United States) does not recognize the death of 1.5 million Armenians at the end of Turkey’s Ottoman Empire as genocide. 700,000 Armenian Americans in California are hoping Bryant will use his stature to raise awareness and put pressure on the United States to recognize the deaths, threatening to boycott the basketball star and the L.A. Lakers if he doesn’t back out of the deal.

Should he continue with the deal, Bryant will make his own inaugural trip in 2011. “I’ve never been to Turkey,” Bryant told CNBC. “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.” The LAX-IST flights will begin in March, four times a week. Turkish Airlines also has direct flights from New York, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.

Turkish Airlines’ current brand embassador is actor Kevin Costner, though no protests are known against his films or for the work of Benicio del Toro, whose image can be seen all over Turkey in advertisements for Magnum ice cream.



[Photo via Flickr by Keith Allison]