Turkey claims New York Knicks’ Enes Kanter has ties to terror group after he criticizes government
New York Knicks Center Enes Kanter skipped this week’s game in London, claiming that he could potentially be killed over his criticisms of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter, who is Turkish, no longer wants to leave the United States or Canada to play basketball because of this fear, telling the New York Times, “The N.B.A. provides a big platform to shed light on the human rights violations in Turkey and gives a voice to the thousands of people persecuted. This platform allows me to speak my mind.”
Kanter had his passport revoked by the country in 2017. According to Turkish outlet Sabah, he has also had an Interpol “red notice” placed on him by Turkish prosecutors, which reportedly cites Kanter’s ties to exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is being blamed by the Turkish government for a failed coup in 2016. The United States is not bound to comply with this “red notice,” and does not have to agree to extradite Kanter back to Turkey.
Kanter’s father is also being charged with crimes against the state, seemingly in retaliation for his son’s actions, and Kanter says cannot even send a text to his mother without adding to his father’s legal burden.
Kanter has taken high profile stances against the government, once going so far as to call President Erdogan “the Hitler of our century” following a 2017 detainment at an airport. Kanter has repeatedly spoken out against the atrocities in Turkey, telling journalists in 2016, “There are thousands of people getting kidnapped, put into jail, getting tortured or raped. I stand for what I believe… I hope the whole world is watching this, human rights groups and the European Union. I want people to do something about it.”
Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner has pledged his support to Kanter. “There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver explained to the L.A. Times. “I will say there’s nothing more important to me, as the commissioner of the league, the safety and security of our players, and so we take very seriously the threats that he has received, (even if) it’s just people on social media. Again, I support Enes, a player in this league, and I support the platform that our players have to speak out on issues that are important to them.”
In an op-ed for Washington Post, Kanter further clarifies exactly what he sees as the risk for him personally: “Erdogan is a strongman, and I knew there would be a backlash for the things I’ve said about him and the Turkish government, but I didn’t know it would be like this. I receive many death threats. I used to love walking around New York City alone, but I can’t do that anymore. My friends and family in Turkey could be arrested just for talking to me. I was unable to attend the Human Rights Foundation’s Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway last year for the same reason that I’m not going to London.”