- New York Knicks center Enes Kanter said he would not travel to London for a game in January out of fears for his safety because of his criticism of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
- On Monday, former NBA forward and current adviser to Erdogan Hedo Turkoglu fired back at Kanter, accusing him of continuing a “smear campaign” against Turkey. Turkoglu said Kanter does not have a visa to travel.
- Kanter responded by calling Turkoglu a “lap dog” and posted a picture of a visa proving he can travel abroad.
New York Knicks center Enes Kanter got into a wild back-and-forth with former NBA forward Hedo Turkoglu over comments about Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kanter, a Turkish native and vocal critic of Erdogan, told reporters on Friday that he would be skipping the Knicks’ trip to London to play the Boston Celtics out of fears for his safety.
“Sadly, 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 [Knicks’] front office. I’m not going.
“It’s pretty sad that just all this stuff affects my career and basketball, because I want to be out there helping my team win. But just because of that one lunatic guy, one maniac or dictator, I can’t even go out there and just do my job.”
He added that Turkey has spies in London, and they could threaten his safety.
On Monday, Turkoglu, who spent 15 years in the NBA is now reportedly a top adviser to Erdogan, said Kanter was continuing a “smear campaign” against Turkey. Turkoglu said Kanter could not travel because of visa issues.
“We know that [Kanter] has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017,” Turkoglu said in a statement posted to Twitter. “In other words, Kanter can’t enter the UK not because of fears for life as he claims but due to passport and visa issues. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.
“Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradictions in his sports career. … It is obvious that this person’s remarks are irrational and distort the truth.”
— Hidayet Türkoğlu (@hidoturkoglu15) January 7, 2019
On Monday, Kanter fired back at Turkoglu, calling him a “lap dog” to Turkey.
“It’s probably not [Turkoglu], but the president making him say it,” Kanter said, adding: “They’re probably making him do it. He’s kind of like his puppy dog. Lap dog is better. He probably got so much money for that.”
According to ESPN, on Friday, a Knicks official said Kanter could not go because of visa issues, though Kanter insisted it was out of safety concern. Kanter seemed to provide proof that he can travel to London.
This is my travel document:
It’s NOT a visa issue!!!
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 7, 2019
Kanter is a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based opponent of Erdogan’s who was exiled from Turkey. Gulen was accused of trying to stage a military coup in 2016. Gulen has denied involvement.
In 2017, Kanter’s Turkish passport was canceled, and he was held at an airport in Romania for several hours while the affair was sorted out.
Kanter has not returned to Turkey in years and has said the government has targeted his family because of his comments.