Why is Kobe Bryant banging on this drum?
He's the “global brand ambassador” for Turkish Airlines now. He was at the inaugural flight ceremony launch not too long ago. He appeared onstage at the Paramount Studios lot. He shook hands with the chairman of the airlines as the first flight was making its way from Los Angeles to Istanbul.
It was one of those surreal events that seem to belong more in a movie than in reality (think Bill Murray in Lost In Translation). A person from the county gave the chairman a certificate. The chairman gave the county person a gourd. The translator stumbled through the language barrier (“We hope that this will bring goodness to all of us”).
The airline is hoping the collaboration with Bryant and the nonstop flights from LAX to Turkey will “expand their relationship” with the West coast. In attendance were many, many travel agents and other people who sell airplane tickets.
In the meantime, members of the Armenian community have been pretty pissed off at Bryant. He's got a two-year endorsement deal. Some Armenians call it “blood money.”
Turkish Airlines is partially owned by the Turkish government. Armenians have been pushing for years for U.S. recognition of the killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide. Turkey does not call the killings genocide, referring to them instead as the consequence of civil unrest.
Bryant has never been to Turkey. At the ceremony, he said he is looking forward to visiting Istanbul this summer. He banged the drum. He signed a Lakers jersey, then he left.