New York Knicks center Enes Kanter, who is averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds this season, says he will not go to London for a game with his National Basketball Association team because he fears he could be assassinated for criticizing Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Enes Kanter made the announcement after the New York Knicks beat the LA Lakers 119-112 on Friday, saying he would remain in New York as his team travels to face Washington at the O2 arena in London on 17 January.
"Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president", Kanter stated. "I can get killed very easy". I talked to the front office.
Kanter was detained for hours at a Romanian airport the last time he traveled overseas.
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"All this stuff affects my career in basketball. So it's pretty sad", Kanter told the media, who were no doubt shocked to hear how drastic the situation with Erdogan had become. "I can get killed very easy".
His Turkish passport was revoked in 2017 and an worldwide warrant for his arrest was issued by Turkey. However, they'll be without their leading rebounder and second leading scorer because of his long-running feud against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the political dictator in his home country.
Kanter told media he's anxious about "spies" in London.
Mehmet was charged with "membership in a terror group" last summer, according to the Associated Press, and Enes believes that if he goes to England, he will be in danger because of his beliefs. In the same year, Erdogan and his government accused Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating a failed coup, an allegation he subsequently denied.
In a piece for Time Magazine a year ago, Kanter addressed why he continues to speak out despite it affecting his family. The people Erdogan is targeting are my family, my friends, my neighbors, my classmates.