Enes Kanter to miss Knicks game in London due to fear of 'lunatic' Turkish president

Less than two weeks away from their game against the Washington Wizards in London, the New York Knicks have reportedly decided that Enes Kanter will not be making the flight with the team due to fear for the center’s safety in Europe.

Kanter told reporters after the team’s win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday that he would not attend the London game because of the possibility of an assassination attempt from spies of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s regime.

From the New York Daily News:

“I talked to the front office and they said I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president (Recep Tayyip Erdoğan),” Kanter said. “There’s a chance that I can get killed out there. So that’s why I talked to the front office. I’m not going so I’m just going to stay here, just practice. It’s pretty sad because it affects my career, my basketball. Because I want to be out there but just because of that one lunatic guy, that one maniac, I can’t go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.”

Asked about his level of concern for being murdered, Kanter said, “Oh yeah. Easy. They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed easily.”

This, of course, is not the only time that Kanter has had his life disrupted by Erdogan, a man who the Washington Post Editorial Board once described as “transforming Turkey into a totalitarian prison.” Kanter has run into much more serious circumstances due to the ruler of his homeland, but this will be the first time that conflict has spilled onto an NBA court.

Enes Kanter’s history with Turkey and Erdogan

Kanter’s clash with Erdogan stems from his vocal support of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Islamic cleric currently living Pennsylvania who Erdogan publicly accused of organizing a failed coup attempt in 2016. That embrace of Gulen has caused Kanter’s family, who live in Turkey, to disown the center, though that didn’t stop Kanter’s father from being arrested and reportedly sentenced to 15 years in prison for “being a member of a terrorist organization.”

Kanter himself is facing a four-year prison sentence from Erdogan’s regime, which he is unlikely to ever carry out due to the tremendously low odds of extradition from the United States. A Turkish judge issued the arrest warrant for Kanter in May 2017, to which Kanter responded on Twitter saying “you can’t catch me.”

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Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter speaks about the revocation of his Turkish passport and return to the United States at National Basketball Players Association headquarters in New York, U.S., May 22, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Apr 11, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) shoots the ball over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Omri Casspi (18) in the second half at Target Center. The Thunder won 100-98. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 11, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) drives to the basket in front of Utah Jazz center Jeff Withey (24) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe (15) fouls Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) during the fourth quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Enes Kanter of Turkey speaks to reporters at a media availability session ahead of the 2011 NBA Draft in New York, June 22, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo
May 24, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (11) and Golden State Warriors guard Shaun Livingston (34) battle for the ball during the second half in game four of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 22: Turkish NBA Player Enes Kanter speaks to media during a news conference about his detention at a Romanian airport on May 22, 2017 in New York City. Kanter returned to the U.S. after being detained for several hours at a Romanian airport following statements he made criticizing Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (Photo by Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - APRIL 23: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder dunks the ball against the Houston Rockets during Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2017 NBA Playoffs on April 23, 2017 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 9: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes to the basket against the Denver Nuggets on April 9, 2017 at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 26: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against the Houston Rockets on March 26, 2017 at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MARCH 11: Enes Kanter #11 of the Oklahoma City Thunder goes up for a lay up during a game against the Utah Jazz on March 11, 2017 at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Turkish government has also canceled Kanter’s passport, which caused him to be detained in a Romanian airport, and attempted to pressure Indonesia to use its military and secret service to hunt down the 26-year-old while he was traveling in the country for his foundation.

With all that history, it should be extremely obvious why the Knicks won’t want to chance anything with Kanter’s safety outside of American borders.

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