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A full-court controversy

December 15, 2010

The political Armenian Diaspora this week took Kobe Bryant to task over a commercial endorsement deal he inked with Turkish Airlines, which described him in a statement as the company's "global brand ambassador."

Armenian organizations immediately took aim at Bryant, posting their rage on Twitter and Facebook over what they said amounted to a slap in the face of an important fan base.

Armenians particularly object to what they say is the close association between the airline and the Turkish government, which in turn has opposed any official recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

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Many in the Armenian community pushed for Bryant to use his fame to campaign for official Congressional recognition, which has long failed to pass a resolution on the genocide amid fears of harming relations with Turkey, a strategic military ally.

"I invite Kobe to do the right thing: make a public statement recognizing the Armenian Genocide, and I invite him to our genocide commemoration on April 25 in Glendale," said Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, adding that it would be a great way for the sports star to show that "he stands separate from the position of Turkey."

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