Enes Kanter, the center for the New York Knicks, won’t make the trip to London to play in the international game due to fear of assassination. Kanter is an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his administration and has had his Turkish citizenship stripped.
The New York Times reports that Kanter will not play with the Knicks against the Washington Wizards in London on January 17th, and the NBA star released a statement to say that he fears for his safety.
“Sadly, I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president. It’s pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball because I want to be out there and help my team win. But just because of the one lunatic guy, one maniac, one dictator, I can’t even go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.”
In the past, Kanter has called the Turkish president “the Hitler of our century,” saying that London is not a safe place.
“Oh yeah, easy. They have a lot of spies there. I could get killed there easy.”
But a Knicks representative says that Kanter will not travel to London due to visa issues.
Enes Kanter to miss Knicks' London trip for fears of assassinationhttps://t.co/G8paiqwNMc— louiseaz (@TLLandrumPHD) January 5, 2019
Kanter has stated publicly that because he has been critical of the Erdogan government, his father Mehmet Kanter has been punished back in Turkey, even losing his university position. On a 2017 trip to Romania, the Turkish government canceled Kanter’s passport, and he was held at the Bucharest airport, says ESPN. The U.S. State Department and Homeland Security were able to step in and secure Kanter’s return to the United States.
Sports Illustrated says that even though Kanter’s reaction sounds extreme, he has been threatened with arrest if he ever returns to Turkey. Erdogan’s government has accused the Knicks center of treason and sedition for using ByLock, an encrypted messaging app to help organize a coup.
Enes Kanter was born in Switzerland but spent most of his childhood in Turkey, where his parents were born. Through his time in the NBA, Kanter was able to apply for a receive a U.S. green card, which will allow him to stay in the United States regardless of employment status. But unless he becomes a citizen, he is not entitled to a United States passport, which limits his travel.
“Kanter lacks a valid passport from any country. The Turkish government canceled his Turkish passport in 2017 and in order to obtain a U.S. passport, Kanter would need to become a U.S. citizen.”