Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter skips London tour, says trip puts life at risk

Prominent Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter would not take the Knick's London trip due to concerns that he could be killed, NBC Sports reported on Jan. 5.

“There’s a chance that I can get killed out there. So that’s why I talked to the front office, I’m not going. So I’m just going to stay here, just practice here," Kanter, an outspoken critic of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said. 

"Just because of that one lunatic guy, one maniac or dictator, I can’t even go out there and just do my job,” he added.

Since moving to the United States, Kanter has become a supporter of the Gülen movement, led by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen from his home in the United States. The Turkish government blames the Gülen movement for carrying out a failed military coup in July 2016 in which more than 200 people were killed. 

Turkey has arrested tens of thousands of alleged followers of the movement on terrorism charges since the coup attempt

After the failed coup, Kanter heavily criticised Erdoğan on Twitter, leading to the cancellation of his social media account in Turkey. Soon after the coup attempt in July, his family on Aug. 8 publicly disowned him due to his political views and his support for Gülen, imploring him to change his surname. Kanter stated that he loved Gülen "more than his family", informally changing his name to Enes Gülen.

On May 20, 2017, Kanter's passport was cancelled by the Turkish embassy. He was temporarily stranded in Romania, but eventually flew to London. Six days after the cancellation of his passport, the Turkish government issued an arrest warrant for Kanter, accusing him of being a member of a "terror group". Turkey said that charged citizens who fail come to Turkey during September 2017 face revocation of citizenship; in September 2017, Kanter described himself as stateless.