NEW YORK - The New York Knicks’ Turkish center Enes Kanter said he won’t make the NBA team’s trip to Britain this month for fear he might be murdered by Turkish spies.
Kanter, an outspoken critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said he didn’t doubt that Turkish operatives could target him in Europe.
“Oh yeah, easy,” he said. “They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed easily.”
Kanter said he had spoken to Knicks executives and wouldn’t make the trip “because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president.
“There’s a chance that I can get killed out there,” he said. “So that’s why I talked to the front office. I’m not going so I’m just going to stay here, just practice.
“It’s pretty sad because it affects my career, my basketball. Because I want to be out there but just because of that one lunatic guy, that one maniac, I can’t go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.”
A Knicks spokesman said only that Kanter would skip the trip because of visa issues.
In December of 2017 Turkish prosecutors demanded Kanter be jailed for more than four years on charges of insulting Erdogan, according to Turkish state media reports.
In May of last year Kanter — who then played for the Oklahoma City Thunder — was detained at a Romanian airport after being told his Turkish passport was cancelled — a move that Kanter blamed on his political views.
He was allowed to depart hours later, but said at a subsequent press conference in the United States that he feared he would be deported from Romania to Turkey.
At the time, Kanter was on a world tour for his charitable foundation.
Kanter, who was born in Switzerland and selected third overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, has voiced support for Erdogan opponent Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in exile in the United States since 1999.
The Knicks are scheduled to play the Milwaukee Bucks in London on Jan. 17.