During Enes Kanter’s career in the NBA he has dealt with a number of serious issues that can relate back to his Turkish roots. During his short time in the NBA he has dealt with restrictions on his travel outside the U.S., and Kanter has had little to no communication with family. Business endorsements and opportunities were soiled because of an ongoing feud with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Although the NY Knick Center has gone through tremendous amounts of red tape, dating back to tough times in his home country, his ability to play in a NBA game was never inhibited until now.
Over the weekend, Kanter revealed to media members that he will not be making the trip with the Knicks to play in their international regular season game in London against the Bucks on January 17. His reasoning behind the decision comes from the fear of being assassinated by Turkish spies sent by Erdogan himself.
Kanter is currently deemed as a wanted fugitive in his home country of Turkey, receiving this status by simply speaking against President Erdogan’s brutal politics. In Turkey, Erdogan routinely uses a law referred to as “insulting the president,” to imprison and/or harass anyone critical of his government.
In 2017, his prosecutors demanded a four-year sentence for Kanter because of his perceived hostility to Ankara. As a result, Kanter had his passport revoked by Turkish government, and is now restricted from traveling to Europe at all.
“I talked to the front office and they said I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president,” Kanter said. “There’s a chance that I can get killed out there. So that’s why I talked to the front office. I’m not going so I’m just going to stay here, just practice.”
"It’s pretty sad because it affects my career, my basketball. Because I want to be out there but just because of that one lunatic guy, that one maniac, I can’t go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad” said Kanter.
Eventually, members of the media asked the NY Knicks center about the realistic chances of being assassinated in Europe. Kanter replied, “Oh yeah. Easy. They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed very easily.”
NY’s Turkish Consulate replied to Kanter’s claims, calling him a radical terrorist who was brainwashed by accused revolutionist Fethullah Gulen. The Turkish Consulate even went as far as accusing Gulen of attempting to manipulate the All-Star voting to help Kanter get a spot. The Turkish Government also labeled Kanter’s father’s political status as “membership in a terror group.”
Kanter is a supporter of the revolutionist Gulen, who was once an opponent, turned threat, in President Erdogans eyes. Gulen was eventually forced to flee Turkey, and has been living in exile in the U.S. since 1999. The Turkish government accused Gulen of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, but denies any accusations or involvement with anything illegal.
“I’m not a criminal or a radical. I’m not ‘dangerous,’” Kanter wrote in a Time Magazine op-ed. “I’m a human being with opinions and beliefs that I have a right to express. Erdogan does not respect that right in me or anyone else, and is willing to crush anyone who criticizes him.”
Enes Kanter chooses to continue the fight against the brutal leaders of his home country.
Previously, he has called the Turkish president “the Hitler of our century” after being detained in a Romania airport back in 2017. The Turkish government then canceled his travel documents, which resulted in threats to extradite him back to Turkey, where he would’ve been imprisoned. At the time of his detainment, Kanter was visiting the country of Romania for his charitable foundation.
Enes was eventually released due to the hard work from the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the OKC Thunder, the NBA, and the players’ union. Since then, Enes Kanter has never left North America. Although the NY Knicks center’s passport was terminated by the Turkish government, Enes has made arrangements to travel outside the country with the Knicks, playing in Canada against the Raptors later this year.