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Kobe taking fire for commercial for violent video game

Mark Hazelwood • May 12, 2015 at 5:32 PM

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant is no stranger to headlines off the court.

As the most decorated and successful player in the NBA in the post-Michael Jordan era, playing for one of the most marketable teams in professional sports, everything Bryant does is put under a microscope.

For that reason, Bryant's participation shooting a gun in a recent commercial for the hit video game "Call of Duty: Black Ops" has drawn reactions of all kinds.

A first-person shooting game, Black Ops is the seventh installment in the Call of Duty series and the first to be set in the Cold War. The player assumes the role of a foot soldier who can wield various firearms and carry two at a time; throw grenades and other explosives; and use other equipment as weapons.

The tag line for the commercial in which Bryant appeared is "There's a soldier in all of us," depicting civilian workers such as a doctor, a construction worker, a deli chef and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel firing all sorts of heavy artillery in a war zone setting.

Bryant is shown smiling before firing an M4 rifle with an M203 grenade launcher and an ACOG scope.

The game -- expected to be a big seller on Black Friday -- is rated for mature audiences, meaning it has content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older due to intense violence, blood and gore, and strong language.

A third of the area's boys basketball coaches were asked for their views on their players seeing the game's biggest star firing a weapon on television for fun.

"I think everyone is too politically correct when it comes to that," Perkins coach Scott McVeigh said. "If Kobe wants to be in that commercial, it is up to him. If people have a problem with it, so be it.

"It is up to parents to have an impact on and keep their kids in line. The toughest job is to be a parent, not their kid's friend."

Given Bryant's slow rehabilitation of his public image due to a well-publicized sexual assault case in summer of 2003, Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon said Bryant's appearance in the ad probably wasn't the smartest move.

"I don't think it is a great move on his part to put himself in these type of scenario's that will allow public criticism," Sheldon said. "But at the end of the day, people have to use common sense.

"It is a video game and if I'm not mistaken, only adults can purchase these violent type of video games. So parents have the final say if they want their child to play these type of games."

Meanwhile, Huron coach Bobby James called the move by Bryant a smart one. Black Ops sold 5.6 million copies on its initial release date and in the first week reached profits of $650 million.

"I think this is a smart marketing move for him," James said. "This is one of the highest selling games on the market right now and Kobe is the most successful basketball player in the NBA. I don't know how Kobe playing Call of Duty is related to basketball, but in modern advertising, I guess the game maker is trying to project an image that all kinds of people are playing the game, even athletes."

James also agreed with the growing sentiment that there are bigger issues at hand than Kobe's actual appearance in the ad.

"Kobe's history of personal behavior and attitude on the court is more worrisome for me than which video game he is playing or promoting," he said. "Parents should be less concerned by which celebrities are promoting which games and try to concentrate on being good examples for their own children."

For Monroeville coach Zac Reer, it's just another example of a money-driven industry.

"I think it's hard to compare playing basketball and serving our country, but it just comes down to coming up with ideas to make money," he said. "If it makes money, then people and companies will do almost anything even if it does send the wrong message."

Ceccoli admitted he hasn't played video games since the popular Dr. J versus Bird (Julis Erving and Larry Bird) for the Commodore 64 in the early 80s, but said NBA players in general haven't exactly been model citizens in recent memory.

"We've come to learn over the years that NBA players aren't the best role models," he said.

McVeigh said he is indifferent on the issue, but sees both sides of it.

"On one hand some people put him on a pedestal because he can put a leather ball in an iron hoop," McVeigh said of Bryant. "He is not a role model, the soldiers out there fighting and dying for our country are for more role models than he is.

"Our firefighters and police officers, moms and dads should be role models for our children. On the other hand, kids need someone to look up to, and especially in this vdeo game era, it might send the wrong message to some kids."

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