LONDON — The Wizards-Knicks game Thursday was telecast in more than 200 countries, but the one thing missing was Enes Kanter. NBA commissioner Adam Silver weighed in with his support of the Knicks center.
Kanter opted not to join the team on the trip for fear of being abducted or killed by agents of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogğan. Then reports surfaced in Turkish state news Wednesday that Turkey was issuing an arrest warrant and seeking an Interpol red note, listing him as a terrorist and subject to extradition.
“My stance is that I think it’s very unfortunate that Enes Kanter is not here with the New York Knicks,” Silver said. “I absolutely understand his reasoning why he elected not to come. Certainly there was never a suggestion from the league that he was not welcome to come on this trip. We live in a world where these are really significant issues he’s dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA that by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to these issues as well.
“I will say that there’s nothing more important to me as a commissioner of the league than the security and safety of our players. So we take very seriously the threats that he’s received, even if it’s just people on social media. Again, I support Enes as a player in this league and I support the platform that our players have to speak on issues that are important to them.”
Kanter was detained in Romania two years ago while traveling for his charity as Turkey revoked his passport and sought to have him brought back to face charges. The NBA has not investigated the current situation yet, with no confirmation of the effort to extradite him, and has made no efforts to get Kanter to tone down his attacks on Erdoğgan.
A Turkish blogger for trendbasket.net who asked that his name not be used said support for Kanter has not been high in Turkey for years, dating to the 2013 Eurobasket championship, when Kanter was not invited to play on the team and responded to a loss by the team by tweeting out a taunt. He noted that as Kanter has described, his tweets are not allowed to be visible in Turkey and games in which Kanter plays aren’t televised in his home country.
“I would say that I’m sad,” Tim Hardaway Jr. said. “He’s our big man, one of the key components of our team. He made a decision, we’re supporting his decision and we’re going to move forward.”