Enes Kanter, a Wanted Man in Turkey, could be withheld from Knicks regular-season game in London
The international warrant issued for Enes Kanter’s arrest has, thus far, not hindered his ability to play basketball.
Despite his passport being revoked by the Turkish government, Kanter made arrangements to play in Canada against the Raptors, and was cleared to travel to Mexico City for a game last season before he was traded from the Thunder.
But Europe could be a different story. The Knicks are scheduled for a regular-season game in London on Jan. 17, and the last time Kanter was across the Atlantic Ocean he was detained and nearly imprisoned.
The Knicks center told the Daily News he’s unsure yet whether he’ll have to stay in the U.S. The Turkish government issued the arrest warrant in May of last year and Kanter faces over four years in prison.
“We haven’t talked to anybody yet. But of course I would like to go out there and play, it’s my team,” he said. “I would love to go out there and help the team win. But I have no idea.”
The Knicks and the NBA has time to assess this situation and determine a solution, but it’s obviously quite dicey. On one hand, Kanter doesn’t own a valid passport and is being charged as a terrorist in his home country of Turkey. On the other hand, Kanter’s biggest crime is speaking freely – specifically against Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has tightened his authoritarian grip on the country by arresting those who don’t fall in line.
Kanter, who has called Erdogan “the Hitler of our century,” among other things, was held at an airport in Romania last spring because the Turkish government canceled his travel documents. They threatened to extradite him to Turkey, where he would’ve been imprisoned and unable to leave.
At the time, Kanter was on a world tour for his charitable foundation. He also had to flee Indonesia while being sought by the country’s army and Secret Service, all under the direction of the Turkish government.
He was eventually released in Romania because of support from the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, the OKC Thunder, the N.B.A. and the players union. Three months later, Kanter was traded to the Knicks.
He has never since left North America.
“It was ugly,” Kanter said of his last trip overseas. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“So we’re just going to have to wait and see. If I don’t go, I’ll just watch the game.”
Kanter has been a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdogan who has been living in exile in the United States since 1999. Gulen was accused of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, but he denies any involvement.
Kanter’s father is also wanted in Turkey for “membership in a terror group.”
“I’m not a criminal or a radical. I’m not ‘dangerous,’” Kanter wrote in a Time Magazine op-ed. “I’m a human being with opinions and beliefs that I have a right to express. Erdogan does not respect that right in me or anyone else, and is willing to crush anyone who criticizes him.”
The Knicks last played in London in 2015, losing to the Bucks. They also went to Italy for preseason games in 2010.