- New York Knicks center Enes Kanter skipped a team trip to London out of fear for his safety over his criticism of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
- On Thursday, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league supports Kanter, a Turkish native, and his platform to speak out about Erdogan.
- Kanter has not spoken to his family in Turkey, had his passport canceled by the Turkish government, and recently had an international warrant for his arrest put out by Turkish prosecutors.
The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday said the league supports New York Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to stay home from a team trip to London out of fears for his safety.
Kanter, a Turkey native, is a vocal critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish political figure and opponent of Erdogan who now lives in the U.S. Gulen was accused of trying to stage a coup against Erdogan in 2016.
In the weeks leading up the Knicks’ trip to London to play the Washington Wizards, Kanter said he would not be going out of fears for his safety overseas. Kanter has said he received death threats online for his criticism of Erodgan and said Turkey has spies across Europe that could hurt him.
On Thursday, Silver said it was “unfortunate” that Kanter was not with the Knicks, but said Kanter is dealing with “significant issues” that the league must take into consideration.
“I think it’s very unfortunate Enes Kanter is not here with the Knicks,” Silver said. “There was never a suggestion from the league that he was not welcome, but we live in a world where there are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize with the NBA, as a global business, we have to pay attention to these issues as well. We take very seriously the threats he has received, even if it’s people on social media. I support Enes as a player in this league, and I support the platform the players have.”
In 2017, Kanter had his passport suddenly canceled by Turkey, leaving him stranded in an airport in Romania for several hours while the affair was sorted out.
This week, Turkish prosecutors put out an international arrest warrant for Kanter, alleging he’s part of a terrorist organization headed by Gulen.
Kanter’s parents have disavowed him, and he says he has not seen or talked to them in years. Kanter has said he loves his country but tries to speak up against the regime to spread awareness.