A new endorsement deal for L.A. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has outraged the Los Angeles Armenian community, CBS Los Angeles reported Wednesday.
Bryant’s two-year deal with Turkish Airlines to become its “global brand ambassador” has set off an uproar among his Armenian fan base because of long-simmering historical tensions between Turks and Armenians.
“We got nonstop calls to the office,” said Casper Jivalagian of the Armenian Youth Federation. “They’re all like, ‘What are you guys going to do about this?’ ”
The outrage stems primarily from the killing of approximately 1.5 million Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire beginning in 1915.
Armenians call the event a genocide, but the Turkish government, while acknowledging many Armenians died during that time period, has never accepted the term "genocide" and says the deaths were the result of a civil war with massacres associated with both side.
The Armenian community commemorates the horrific period with annual marches and continues to call on the Turkish government to acknowledge its role, CBS reported.
“Ninety-five percent, if not 100 percent, of those people are all Lakers fans, and he should know that. He should know better than to put his money before his morality,” Artek Santikian said referring to L.A.'s Armenian community.
The airline’s ads starring Bryant are slated to begin airing in the U.S. and Middle East early next year.
The five-time NBA champion told CBS on Tuesday night that he was excited about his new deal.