Faced with death threats, NBA star shows world who Erdoğan really is – report

NBA Player Enes Kanter has spent half a decade fighting to shed light on injustices taking place in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey, a move that has cost him his safety in the United States and large sponsorship deals, Israeli newspaper Haaretz said.

The Boston Celtics star maintains close contact with the FBI and police over the regular death threats he receives for tweeting and speaking on injustices taking place in Turkey in the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt, it said.

The 28-year-old is a vocal supporter of Fethullah Gülen, accused by Ankara of orchestrating the failed putsch and maintaining a long-running scheme to overthrow Erdoğan by infiltrating Turkish institutions.

Over 77,000 people have been imprisoned over links to the Gülen movement, which Ankara designates a terrorist organisation. Some 150,000 public employees have been suspended or sacked as part of the Turkish government’s global crackdown on the group.

“My dad was a genetics professor and got fired,” Kanter told Haaretz. “My sister went to medical school for six years and she still can’t find a job. My little brother, who plays basketball, literally got kicked off every team in Turkey because he has the same last name as me.”

Kanter’s social media postings about Erdoğan’s crackdown have garnered international attention, and that is what the  6’10” centre, who was stripped of his Turkish citizenship in 2017, prefers, regardless of the consequences.

“A couple times a week, I go downstairs, and outside my building there’s a police car waiting for me. If something happens, they’re there. It’s tough to live this way, but I know that what I’m doing is bigger than myself,’’ Kanter explains.

The NBA players’ father has done time in prison, despite publicly disowning Kanter and Boston Celtics player not having contacted his family in years.

The pressure put on from the United States against the arrest of his father, Mehmet Kanter, on terror charges resulted in his exoneration just weeks ago, a move the NBA star attributes to his relentless fight against the Turkish government.

“There is no freedom of expression in Turkey today, but nowadays everybody is on social media,” Kanter says. “They don’t really read newspapers anymore. Everybody goes to Twitter, Instagram. Because I have an ideal platform, I’m trying to spread good news and speak the truth.”

Meanwhile, the Boston Celtics player has been told by his agency that companies like Nike are steering clear of sponsorship deals with him so as to avoid problems in his native country of Turkey.

“They know that if they give you a contract, they’re going to go against a whole country, and the Turkish government may shut down every Nike store in Turkey,’’ Kanter quoted his agent as saying.