LOS ANGELES—As Kobe Bryant prepares to celebrate his endorsement deal with Turkish Airlines at a Paramount Studios launch party, the Armenian Youth Federation calls on Kobe to recognize and understand the ramifications of becoming the face of the state-run airline and to take steps to correct this lapse in judgment.
The Republic of Turkey, which runs Turkish Airlines, has attempted to mollify international condemnation of its human rights record through thinly-veiled public relations ploys. These gimmicks, which include abusing the reputation of athletes and stars and employing multi-million dollar political lobbyists, cannot hide Turkey’s contempt for the rights of its citizens and for its own history.
Turkey uses brutal violence against its Kurdish minority, whose demonstrations have been crushed time and time again. Furthermore, Turkey continues to repress free speech and arrests journalists. Just last year, the Turkish government offered refuge to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for charges of Genocide. Most shameful is Turkey’s decades-long attempts to distort and deny the Armenian genocide. A few months ago, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was the 2010 recipient of the Muammar Gaddafi prize for human rights, threatened to deport the remaining Armenians from Turkey.
Recently, celebrity entertainers including Beyoncé Knowles, Mariah Carey, 50 Cent, and others have come under public scrutiny for accepting large cash payouts for performing at lavish parties hosted by the family of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Following Gaddafi’s brutal crackdown on protesters, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,000 demonstrators, demands surfaced for music stars to admit to accepting money from the regime and for them to donate the same amount to charity.
Last week Nelly Furtado tweeted that she would be donating the one million dollars she received, and representatives for Beyoncé have released a statement declaring that all monies she accepted from the Gaddafi family were donated to Haitian earthquake relief efforts.
This highlights the increasing need for celebrities and public figures to be sensitive and act with the utmost prudence and responsibility when sponsoring or endorsing products and events. The status of celebrity in today’s world goes far beyond dollar signs and necessitates accountability and understanding.
We are deeply saddened by Kobe Bryant’s dismissive attitude toward the concerns of thousands of his fans. His silence has been deafening.
We believe that Mr. Bryant’s sole concern off the court is not just to make money; rather we hope that he recognizes his role in world as an ambassador of humanity, not of Turkish Airlines.
We ask Kobe Bryant to use this unique opportunity to act as a responsible and dignified public figure and to donate the proceeds from his deal with the state-run Turkish Airlines to genocide and human rights education and awareness programs such as The Genocide Education Project.