LOS ANGELES — Knicks center Enes Kanter said on Friday that he would not travel with the team to play the Washington Wizards in London on Jan. 17 because he feared he could be killed for his public opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
Kanter, who is Turkish, has been an outspoken critic of the president for years.
“Sadly, I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president,” Kanter said after the Knicks’ 119-112 victory over the Lakers. “It’s pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball because I want to be out there and help my team win. But just because of the one lunatic guy, one maniac, one dictator, I can’t even go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.”
Kanter, who once referred to Erdogan as “the Hitler of our century,” said there was a chance he could “get killed out there” if he were to travel to London.
“Oh yeah, easy,” Kanter said. “They have a lot of spies there. I could get killed there easy.”
A Knicks official later said that Kanter was not traveling to London because of a visa issue.
In May 2017, Kanter was detained for several hours at an airport in Romania after the Turkish government canceled his travel documents. Later that year, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported that prosecutors were seeking more than four years in jail for Kanter on charges that he had insulted Erdogan on social media.