There is a drama taking place in the NBA that's well beyond wins and losses. It centers on a player--part of this generation's wave of international basketball talent--who believes that he could be killed by his own government. The player is Enes Kanter, a center for the New York Knicks.
In January, the Turkish-born Kanter went public and said that he would not be joining his team for a game in England because he believes that once outside the United States, he would be targeted for death by Turkey's "strongman" president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"I talked to the front office and they said I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president," Kanter told the New York Daily News. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there," he said. "Its pretty sad because it affects my career, my basketball."
Asked about his chances of being murdered, Kanter said, "Oh yeah. Easy. They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed easily."
The twenty-six-year-old Kanters very public sparring with Erdogan goes back a number of years. It is rooted in Kanters public support of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the mountains of Eastern Pennsylvania Erdogan believes Fethullah Gulen was behind a failed coup attempt in 2016. Kanters father, Mehmet, was sentenced by the Turkish government to a fifteen-year prison sentence for the family's alleged support of Gulen. The official charges were for "being a member of a terrorist organization."
All this happened even though Mehmet Kanter and his family "disavowed" both Gulen and their son. Enes Kanter, a vocal supporter of Gulen, responded by cutting ties with his family.
Kanter has further angered the regime by continuing to taunt them over social media. After his father's sentence, he tweeted: "I will continue to keep fighting for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech Justice and Democracy above all. I will stand for what I believe in. All I'm doing is trying to be voice of innocent people. Keep my family, innocent people in your prayers."
In 2017, when a Turkish judge issued an arrest warrant for Enes Kanter for his support of Gulen, the Knicks center tweeted, "You can't catch me. Don't waste your...