Keep Calm and Play Ball
Turkish President Targets Enes Kanter
Enes Kanter was the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. For a 19-year-old kid, being drafted meant an escape from the country that would soon become his enemy.
Earlier this month, the Knicks center announced that he wouldn’t travel to London for a regular season game against the Wizards, saying he feared for his life due to ongoing challenges with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter also said he could easily be killed during the trip, which drew more attention to the situation. That game against the Wizards is tonight.
After the Knicks boarded a plane for London without Kanter…
Turkish prosecutors submitted an extradition request for him, claiming the 26-year-old NBA player has ties to a terror organization and exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. The prosecutors are seeking an Interpol “Red Notice” which would allow them to locate and arrest Kanter. The United States now has to decide if Kanter has committed a crime that would allow Interpol’s arrest, and it's unlikely he'll be handed over to the Turkish government.
Kanter is using the situation to shed light on Turkey’s issues.
On Tuesday, Kanter published an opinion piece in the Washington Post prior to the extradition request. He claims the feud began with his support of Gulen and a tweet insulting Erdogan two years ago. The piece describes Kanter’s ongoing fear and sheds light on Turkey’s problems with a "dictatorship" and a country with no freedom of speech; something Kanter has a lot of as an NBA player in America.
Those issues go well beyond what we can cover in the newsletter, but Enes Kanter presents a threat – a sports celebrity with a megaphone who is difficult to silence. On Tuesday, Kanter spoke out again. Wednesday brought the extradition request. The Knicks play in London tonight, and this story is far from over.
Kanter has had his passport revoked, his life threatened, and he's even afraid to go out alone in New York City. By talking, he continues to widen the target on his back, but he also continues to use his sports platform to incite change in his home country.
“Keep calm and play ball.”
That’s what some of Kanter’s friends have told him. Easier said than done.
If you have time, this is one of the most interesting stories we’ve read in 2019.
Washington Post: Kanter’s Story