Enes Kanter said Saturday that he will not travel with the Knicks when the team plays in London against the Washington Wizards on January 17 out of his fear that Erdogan could have him killed in Europe
Currently serving as an advisor to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu has accused New York Knicks center Enes Kanter engaging in a ‘political smear campaign’ against the controversial leader.
A Turkish national facing imprisonment in his home country for his ties to the opposition Hizmet movement, Kanter said Saturday that he will not travel with the Knicks when the team plays in London against the Washington Wizards on January 17 out of his fear that Erdogan could have him killed in Europe.
A Knicks spokesman told the Daily Mail that Kanter would actually be missing the trip because of a visa issue. His Turkish passport was cancelled in 2017, resulting in Kanter being detained at a Romanian airport.
‘We know that he has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017,’ read the statement Turkoglu posted on Twitter. ‘In other words, Kanter cannot enter the U.K. 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.’
Kanter responded to Turkoglu by tweeting a picture of what he called his ‘travel document,’ which he claims would have allowed him to travel to London, were he not fearful for his life.
Former NBA forward Hedo Turkogly (center left) was appointed as an advisor by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan (center right) in 2016, following his 15-year NBA career
He previously received a U.S. green card, according to reports, allowing him to remain in the U.S. indefinitely while also permitting him to travel to Canada for games against the Toronto Raptors – the NBA’s only franchise that is not in the United States.
At Monday’s shootaround prior to the Knicks game in Portland, Kanter insisted that Turkoglu, his former teammate on Turkey’s men’s team, was being told what to say.
‘It’s probably not [Turkoglu], but the president making him say it,’ Kanter told reporters. ‘If you look at his Twitter, it’s German, English and Turkish. It’s three languages, and he doesn’t even know German. 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.
‘They don’t understand the conversation and it’s very confusing,’ added Kanter, as quoted by ESPN. ‘It’s not a visa issue. … I have a travel document…. I can travel.’
Kanter currently faces four years in a Turkish prison for insulting Erdogan, whom the NBA star has repeatedly referred to as ‘The Hitler of our century.’
Kanter responded to Turkoglu’s accusation on Twitter by sharing his own travel documents
Kanter claims his documents would have allowed him to travel to London were he not living in fear of being assassinated by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Since 2016, when he survived an attempted coup, Erdogan has been cracking down on the media and political opponents, leading to thousands of arrests. A New York Times report claimed Erdogan has jailed or fired thousands accused of conspiring in the failed coup.
Kanter is a follower of a U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who the government accuses of masterminding the failed military coup in 2016.
Gülen, who reportedly lives in exile in Pennsylvania, has denied the allegation.
On Saturday in Los Angeles, Kanter explained why he would not be going to London for the game against Washington.
Kanter accused Turkoglu (right) of simply being loyal to Erdogan (left) when he claimed that the Knicks center lied about the possibility of being assassinated in London
‘Sadly, I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president,’ Kanter told reporters.
‘It’s pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball, because I want to be out there and help my team win. But just because of the one lunatic guy, one maniac, one dictator, I can’t even go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.
‘They’ve got a lot of spies there,’ he continued when asked about London. ‘I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation.’
It’s not known if Kanter any specific threat connected with the London game, but has previously claimed to have had his life threatened.
Kanter began speaking about against Erdogan in 2016 following a bombing in Ankara, the country’s capital.
Turkey was previously linked to a murder on British soil. In 2016 the The Times accused Turkish intelligence murdering a Kurdish dissident in a London café.
More recently, two Russian agents were accused of killing kill former Russian intelligence officer Sergei Skripal with a nerve agent in southwest England.
Hedo Turkoglu (left) and Enes Kanter (right) were briefly teammates during EuroBasket 2011
Turkoglu dismissed the idea that Kanter could be killed.
‘I received with concern the news about the delusions targeting the Republic of Turkey of Enes Kanter, who pledged his loyalty to the ringleader of Fetullashist Terrorist Organization (FETO), and his statement that he would miss the game in London due to fears of being assassinated by Turkey,’ read Turkoglu’s statement, referencing the Turkish government’s name for the Hizmet movement.
‘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.’
‘Kanter not only targeted the Republic of Turkey, governed by the rule of law, with unjust accusations but he also regarded the British security forces as weak and attempted to harm Turkish-British relations.’
‘It is obvious that this person’s remarks are irrational and distort the truth.’
Turkoglu’s statement accused Kanter of intentionally trying to hurt British-Turkish relations
In a statement previously provided to the Daily Mail from the Turkish Consulate in New York, a government spokesman accused Kanter of being a radical terrorist.
‘Enes Kanter is one of the well-known recruits of Fetullah Gülen and a vocal mouthpiece of FETÖ,’ the statement read. (‘FETÖ’ is an abbreviation for the Turkish government’s name for Gülen and his followers: ‘Fetullah Gülen Terrorist Orgnaization’)
Turkoglu’s NBA career ended in 2015 after he scored over 11,000 points (11.1 points a game)
‘He is a tragic example, or a case study of radicalization by this cultish crime syndicate,’ the statement continues.
‘He encountered the Gülenist structures in early ages. He studied in one of their schools in Turkey. These schools functioned as the main grounds for brainwashing talented/intelligent kids, transforming them into servants of Gülen and his cult.’
The statement goes on to accuse Gülen’s organization of stuffing the virtual NBA All-Star ballot boxes in Kanter’s favor: ‘One of the orders disseminated to the Gülenists through this program was to support Enes Kanter’s NBA Allstar (sic) bid through internet voting. Another instruction was that members should use every kind of social media to demonstrate support for Kanter, following his row with his family.’
Although he publicly denounced and disowned his son, Mehmet Kanter was indicted on terrorism charges in June and sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Prior to that, Mehmet, a professor, was purged from public service after the coup attempt and detained for five days in 2017.
Enes Kanter has stated that he believes he father was arrested in retaliation for his outspoken criticism of Erdogan.
It was previously reported that although the NBA is very popular in Turkey, Knicks games are not broadcast within the country. And recently, when the NBA’s Turkish social media accounts asked fans to name the top Turkish player, Kanter was noticeably omitted from the list
Kanter has said he’s struggled to sign a shoe contract because sneaker companies are reluctant to anger Turkey, where they have ‘million dollar investments,’ he explained in 2018.
Turkoglu’s NBA career ended in 2015 after he scored over 11,000 points (11.1 points per game), primarily for the Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and Orlando Magic. In 2016, Erdogan appointed Turkoglu to advise him on sports.
Turkoglu and Kanter briefly played together during the EuroBasket tournament in 2011.
Turkoglu and Kanter briefly played together during the EuroBasket tournament in 2011