Less than two weeks away from their game against the Washington Wizards in London, the New York Knicks have reportedly decided that Enes Kanter will not be making the flight with the team due to fear for the center’s safety in Europe.
Kanter told reporters after the team’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday that he would not attend the London game because of the possibility of an assassination attempt from spies of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime.
From the New York Daily News:
“I talked to the front office and they said I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan),” 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.”
Asked about his level of concern for being murdered, Kanter said, “Oh yeah. Easy. They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed easily.”
This, of course, is not the only time that Kanter has had his life disrupted by Erdogan, a man who the Washington Post Editorial Board once described as “transforming Turkey into a totalitarian prison.” Kanter has run into much more serious circumstances due to the ruler of his homeland, but this will be the first time that conflict has spilled onto an NBA court.
Enes Kanter’s history with Turkey and Erdogan
Kanter’s clash with Erdogan stems from his vocal support of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Islamic cleric currently living Pennsylvania who Erdogan publicly accused of organizing a failed coup attempt in 2016. That embrace of Gulen has caused Kanter’s family, who live in Turkey, to disown the center, though that didn’t stop Kanter’s father from being arrested and reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison for “being a member of a terrorist organization.”
Kanter himself is facing a four-year prison sentence from Erdogan’s regime, which he is unlikely to ever carry out due to the tremendously low odds of extradition from the United States. A Turkish judge issued the arrest warrant for Kanter in May 2017, to which Kanter responded on Twitter saying “you can’t catch me.”
The Turkish government has also canceled Kanter’s passport, which caused him to be detained in a Romanian airport, and attempted to pressure Indonesia to use its military and secret service to hunt down the 26-year-old while he was traveling in the country for his foundation.
With all that history, it should be extremely obvious why the Knicks won’t want to chance anything with Kanter’s safety outside of American borders.
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