LOS ANGELES (FOX 11) - An NBA star is speaking out about the Turkish government, saying that he will continue working to raise awareness about the alleged issues present in the country under the current president, despite the death threats he's received.
Enes Kanter is a 6'11" player for the Portland Trail Blazers here in Los Angeles this week to play the Clippers. An international arrest warrant was issued for Kanter who Turkish authorities are calling a terrorist. Back in January, Kanter responded to news of the warrant on Twitter, saying that the Turkish government could not present “any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing.”
“I don’t even have a parking ticket in the U.S.,” he wrote. "I have always been a law-abiding resident." In a tweet following, he posted a GIF of himself dunking and wrote, “The only thing I terrorize is the rim.”
The only thing I terrorize is the rim 😂 pic.twitter.com/T9mk3bkzKR— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) January 16, 2019
The NBA star says he's in trouble with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's administration because he has spoken out against the Turkish government and continues to do so.
“They are claiming that I am a bad guy, even called me a terrorist. All I’m trying to do is be the voice for the people who don't have a voice,” he added.
Kanter told FOX 11, "It's very sad what's going on with my country. Turkey could be the bridge between West and Modern Islam and just because of all of the stuff going on in Turkey right now it's impossible. There is no democracy, there is no freedom, there [are] no human rights in Turkey."
Oregon Senator Ron Wyden spoke on Kanter's behalf last week, saying in part, “President Erdogan has responded like many thin-skinned autocrats before him, by going after Mr. Kanter and his family. America cannot and must not stay silent.”
Kanter's father, Dr. Mehmet Kanter, goes on trial on March 14, accused of trying to help a cleric in America overthrow the country. He said his dad could face 10 to 15 years in a Turkish prison.
The athlete told FOX 11 that the Turkish government hates the fact that he has a platform in America as an NBA basketball star.
"I'm trying to use this platform to talk about the issues going on in my country and they hate that because when I talk, it becomes a conversation and it goes viral," Kanter said. "So that's why they want to silence me."
He said he is so scared that he skipped basketball games in London and Toronto for fear that he would be arrested and extradited.
Kanter told FOX 11 that he receives numerous death threats on a weekly basis.
“People are asking me if I’m taking them seriously — of course I’m taking them seriously," he said. "Those are death threats!”
As a result, the athlete has increased his personal security and said that the only place he goes alone is the bathroom.
Kanter claims that thousands of women and children are incarcerated without due process as part of a Turkish crackdown on dissidents.
"I’m sacrificing everything — myself, my career, basketball, even my life to talk about these issues because... There are 80,000 people in the jail right now who don’t have a voice — their stories are way worse than mine,” Kanter told FOX 11.
“I will continue to talk about these issues. I’m meeting with lots of senators, congressmen and I’m trying to create awareness of what’s going on,” Kanter said.
The NBA star hopes to visit the White House to speak with President Donald Trump about the issues in Turkey, saying, “He might be the only one who can help those innocent people.”
We have reached out to the Turkish consulate nationally and locally for a response. We have not yet received that.
Catch more of Enes Kanter on "In Depth" on Sunday, March 17, 2019, at 9 a.m. on Fox 11.