Is Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter right to think Ankara spies might kill him?
Turkish basketball star Enes Kanter made headlines this week for something other than his athleticism when he said he would not travel with his team to London later this month for fear that Ankara's spies might try to murder him.
New York Knicks center Kanter expressed his fear after the Knicks' victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night. A video of his remarks was posted on Twitter.
The Knicks are scheduled to play the Washington Wizards in London on Jan. 17.
“There is a chance I could get killed out there,” Kanter, a longtime critic of Erdogan, told reporters.
Enes Kanter says he’s not going to London with Knicks because he fears for his life due to “that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president. There’s a chance that I can get killed out there.” pic.twitter.com/NvRDSHWB4V— Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) January 5, 2019
While some observers have said Kanter might be over-reacting, his fears are not without cause. In 2017, he was detained in a Romanian airport when the Turkish government canceled his passport. Kanter said the cancellation came after his outspoken political beliefs and criticism against Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey.
According to a CBS Sports report, after Kanter returned to the United States, he held a press conference where he explained what happened -- and his story is pretty wild.
Kanter revealed that the only reason he was even in Romania was because he was escaping police officers in Indonesia that the Turkish government had sent after him. Once he escaped the country he eventually found his way to Romania, where his passport was cancelled. CBS Sports' Bill Reiter sat down with Kanter to discuss everything that happened. Check out a full interview with Kanter from CBS Sports Radio's Tiki And Tierney Show here.
Everything started for Kanter early in the morning after he was woken in his hotel room.
He explained "Around 2:30 something my manager knocked on my door and then I opened it and he's like we need to talk. I was like okay and then I went to his room. Start talking and he's like we have a problem. I said what's the problem? He said Turkish government or embassy called Indonesia and said Enes Kanter's there and he's a dangerous man and we need to talk to him. And they sent the secret service and the army to the school I just had a basketball clinic with."
Kanter immediately knew it was bad from what's happened to friends of his in different countries. However, he was able to get out of the country quickly after what happened before reaching Romania and discovering his passport had been cancelled.
"I have friends in Malaysia that were getting kidnapped and deported back to Turkey. If they deport [me] back to Turkey it will be ugly. So that's why I was talking to my manager like what should we do? And he was like okay, we need to leave the country."
"We look at the flights. The first flight was Singapore at 5:30 AM so we kinda escaped the country. At 5:30 and when the plane took off I was like, thank God. Then we went to Singapore hung out there for a couple hours, whatever, then went to Romania and that's where all the craziness started."
Kanter eventually made his way to London, where he was able to get on a flight to the United States. Once he reached the U.S. Kanter said he planned on applying for U.S. citizenship.
Former NBA Turkish player Hedo Turkoglu – now an adviser working with Erdogan’s government – attempted to discredit Kanter’s claims by saying that the latter was spreading a “smear campaign” and that the only reason he was not able to travel to London were due to “visa issues”.
Kanter then responded on Twitter by calling Turkoglu a “lap dog” of Erdogan and posted a photo of his travel documents showing a valid American visa to refute the claim.
This is my travel document:— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 7, 2019
It’s NOT a visa issue!!!
I CAN go to London.
Either you are delusional, or still Erdogan’s lap dog..
Keep wagging your tail@hidoturkoglu15
@RT_Erdogan #DictatorErdogan pic.twitter.com/UpvEG24ayu
The New York Knicks player has been publicly outspoken against Erdogan for the past three years, going so far as calling the Turkish president “the Hitler of our century.”