Enes Kanter, The Turkish Government, and a Trip to London

USP NBA: NEW YORK KNICKS-MEDIA DAY S BKN USA NYPhoto Credit: USA Today’s FTW

The New York Knicks have not been a top news story this season, mainly due to their poor record of 10-34. However, one of their players, Enes Kanter, has been circling the top stories for around a week now.  This story is as much political as sports, but since Enes Kanter plays in the NBA it is important to address.  So let’s start from the beginning of Kanter’s fight with the Turkish Government.

Kanter was actually born Switzerland while his father was attending the University of Zürich.  Kanter is a Turkish citizen, or at least was for the majority of his life.  Everything was smooth sailing for Kanter until 2016 when his comments for the Turkish President caught major attention.

Kanter was a supporter of the Hizmet movement which was advocating for the Islamic movement in Turkey. Their leader is Fethullah Gülen.  He was a citizen of Turkey, but had to flee the country after the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened his life. Gülen attempted to overthrow the government and president Erdoğan.  His attempt failed and left President Erdoğan furious. He imprisoned, killed, and banished dozens of people. Gülen fled the country.

Enes Kanter was incredibly harsh and critical of President Erdoğan on Twitter and in his remarks to the media.  Erdoğan then imprisoned Kanter’s father for his remarks.  This didn’t stop Kanter from continually criticizing the Turkish President.  Let me say that Kanter’s comments are 100% justified and the things that Erdoğan does are horrible and without precedent.

In 2017, Kanter’s passport was terminated by their president. Shortly after that, Erdogan issued a warrant for Kanter’s arrest, calling him a terrorist and a member of a terrorist group.  This did not stop Kanter from calling out the president while mocking him over the possible prison time of 4 years.

So where does this leave us today? Well, this story made news again this past week when the Knicks traveled to play the Wizards in London.  Kanter announced he would not be traveling with the team because his life was in danger if he traveled to London due to the close proximity to Turkey.  He said he was receiving many death threats due to the possibility of being in London.  This is where the story really drew me in.  How a player in the NBA can be in serious danger is astounding to me.  It is also hard to believe that a story of this magnitude is still unfamiliar to many fans of the NBA.  The sad truth is that what is happening to Kanter happens to millions of people every year.  Many countries do not share the same level of freedom that we in the United States do.  If you speak out against your president or leader you may be punished in several countries across the globe.

After all of this transpired, Kanter has come out and asked for President Trump to intervene.  No matter what you think of Trump, I think there is a clear cut case for him to say something and help Kanter with the cause he is supporting.  Turkey is torturing people over their difference in opinion and Kanter is just one of many people who stands for something larger than himself.  Athletes in the United States are seen as stars and above regular people like you and I.  If somebody to that degree can be treated like this from his homeland, then what are regular people dealing with?

As this story continues to unfold it does not fall short of incredible.  It falls into several different aspects of media attention.  Sports fans, politics, and foreign policy are all peculiarly wrapped together in this story.

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