ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A Turkish basketball player says he will not join his teammates on their trip to the United Kingdom because he fears for his life due to his ongoing row with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
American National Basketball Association (NBA) star Enes Kanter, who plays for the New York Knicks, told reporters on Friday that he would not join his team in London “because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president.”
Although a member of the Knicks said the Turkish athlete would not travel due to “a visa issue,” Kanter told the media there is a possibility he could get killed if he joins his team on their UK trip because Turkey has “a lot of spies there.”
“It’s pretty sad that all this stuff affects my career and basketball because I want to be out there and help my team win,” he lamented.
“But just because of that one lunatic guy – one maniac, one dictator – I can’t even go out there and just do my job. It’s pretty sad.”
The Knicks are set to play the Washington Wizards in London on Jan. 17.
The 26-year-old baller faces jail time in his home nation Turkey after a prosecutor ruled in December 2017 that Kanter was guilty of insulting Erdogan and should be jailed for up to four years.
According to prosecutors, the NBA player used Twitter to “defame and deride” the Turkish president.
The New York Knicks star is also a long-time supporter of Gulen whose extradition Ankara is seeking despite the Islamic cleric’s denial he was involved in the failed coup.
In May 2017, Kanter was detained in Romania when authorities were made aware his Turkish passport had been revoked, leading him to call Erdogan the “Hitler of our century.”
He would later return to the United States where he holds a green card that allows him to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.