U.S. senator asks Canada for Kanter’s protection during NBA finals

A U.S. senator  has expressed concern for the safety of Portland Trail Blazers player Enes Kanter, a fierce critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, should his team face the Toronto Raptors in the NBA finals, the Guardian reported.

Turkish authorities have cancelled Kanter’s passport and issued him an arrest warrant and Interpol red notice over his support for the Gülen religious movement, which Ankara says orchestrated for the July 2016 coup attempt.  The Turkish government placed the Gülen movement on its list of terrorist organisations in May 2016.

Portland is facing NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, in a seven-game series beginning on Tuesday with the winner set to face either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Toronto Raptors in the NBA finals in May.

Ron Wyden, a senator from Oregon, has written to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, pre-emptively asking for Kanter’s safety.

 “I ask your government to facilitate Mr Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada should the Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, Canada, in the upcoming NBA finals,” Wyden wrote. “I also urge your government to state publicly that it will not comply with any Interpol red notice meant to interfere with Mr Kanter’s livelihood and to intimidate him and his family back in Turkey.”

Wyden in March took Kanter’s cause to the senate floor, urging U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to warn Ankara to cease its pursuit of the basketball player. 

Kanter openly proclaims his support of the movement’s U.S.-based leader, Fethullah Gülen, but denies being a terrorist.

The 26-year old made headlines in January after he refused to travel to London for a key game over fears he would be targeted by Turkish intelligence agents.

Meanwhile, Turkish sports broadcaster S Sport say they will ignore the conference final on Tuesday between the Blazers and defending champion Golden State Warriors in a bid to keep Kanter off Turkish screens.

Kanter’s Trail Blazers, despite having an impressive season, they are underdogs to beat the Warriors and make the finals.