Enes Kanter has always had a relatively tough job, guarding some of the most talented and physical athletes the NBA has to offer. During his time in the NBA, the Turkish big man has had great success and found plenty of work with a number of different teams, most recently in New York as a member of the New York Knicks.
But it’s a much bigger battle that has left the big man saddened, and forced to take a stance with his voice as an NBA player. Kanter sat down with Jeff Goodman on the Good N’ Plenty Podcast on CLNS Media and talked about his ongoing issues with the Turkish government.
“People know my story because I play in the NBA, but there are thousands and thousands of stories out there of struggle, people in jail, getting kidnapped, getting killed, getting raped,” Kanter told Goodman. “All the reports are out there. Those things are happening in Turkey. And for me, I have a platform. I play in the NBA and I have a voice. People would ask if I was crazy, saying “Your family is still there. Stop talking and play basketball” I’m trying to be the voice of all the people because all the people are my friends, my neighbors, my family.”
Kanter has been a widely outspoken critic of current Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has landed him a four-year jail sentence if he ever was to go back to Turkey. While Kanter is not so worried about himself, being thousands of miles away, he does understand these issues will follow his professional career as well as his family.
“It’s tough for me and for my teammates, because when the news was coming out – Enes Kanter just got four years in prison if he ever goes back to Turkey – I’d get to the locker room and people would look at me so weird. They’d ask if I was okay. I was like, “Yeah man I’m used to this kind of stuff. Don’t worry about it.”
“My thing is just, with all the Turkish stuff – I tried to bring my family to America but the Turkish government took their passports away so they cannot travel anymore. [And] a year or two ago the police came to my house in Turkey. They took all of my electronics away; the phones away, the computers away, laptops away. They want to see if I am still in contact with my family or not. Because if they see any text message then they will all be in trouble. My brother was here and I was just communicating through my brother.”
Kanter’s politics are hurting him in the wallet as well. According to Kanter, Nike had a deal in place to sign the forward but talks fell through because of his outspoken political opposition to Erdogan.
“The only reason why I don’t have a shoe deal is because of this. I was talking to my agent, and then they said, “We called Nike. They’ve been watching [me]. We want to give him a contract, but because of what happened in Turkey we cannot give him a contract. Because if we give him a contract they will shut down every store in Turkey. [But] what I’m doing is way bigger than the money or the shoe deals or all the other stuff. I am going to find a shoe to wear in the game. But it’s sad that everyone is afraid to give me a contract.”