Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter is fighting for a spot in the NBA Finals against the mighty Golden State Warriors. He’s also fighting against what he sees as a dictatorship in his home country of Turkey, where he would be arrested if he ever returns to the country.
He’s been forced to miss NBA games in other countries, dealt with constant death threats, and now has a direct line to the FBI if anything happens.
Kanter sleeps with panic button
Kanter was released by the New York Knicks hours after the trade deadline and signed with the Trail Blazers a few days later. One of the first things he did was meet with agents from the city’s FBI agency, per an ESPN feature released Monday on his 27th birthday.
Monday also marks two years to the day since Kanter was detained and later released in Romania when the Turkish embassy “canceled” his passport. The outspoken Kanter is a “wanted man” in Turkey and faces death threats for his criticism of the Turkish government and president Reccip Tayyip Erdogan.
He says the agents listened and wrote down Kanter's words and asked a few more questions. Not once did they ask if he was taking the threats seriously, and before they left, they installed a device next to his bed. "If you're uncomfortable with anything, just push that button," they told him. "If you hear something you don't like or have a reason to believe there's a threat, push the button and someone will be here within minutes."
Kanter gave the FBI the details of his experience with Turkey and Erdogan, reported in the media over the years, and said the death threats accelerated earlier this year when he stayed behind as the Knicks traveled to London for a game.
Kanter won’t stop speaking for innocent people
Kanter told the FBI, per ESPN, he had no intention of quieting his defiance against the Turkish leader even as it puts his family in danger. From ESPN:
"I will never stop talking," he says. He laughs again, at the absurdity of that statement, and the need to employ it. "I understand my mother and father and sister are in Turkey, but if I stop talking, who is going to speak for the thousands and thousands of innocent people in jail? People are getting tortured and killed, so I have to talk about these issues. I'm not a journalist or a politician, so this is my platform."
He has spoken for human rights and freedoms in his home country in direct contradiction of the current Turkish regime. Turkey sought an international arrest warrant for Kanter in January and alleged he is part of a terrorist organization. His Turkish passport was seized in 2017, leading to his near arrest during a layover in Romania. Since then he won’t travel outside of the United States, skipping games in London and in Toronto.
If the Trail Blazers come back and pull off an upset, he could be again left behind in the U.S. if the Toronto Raptors win the Eastern Conference. Oregon senator Ron Wyden wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking to “facilitate Mr. Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada.” A Trail Blazers-Raptors final would also mean another NBA series blackout in Turkey.
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