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Jan 16, 2019 | Sports News

Knicks' Kanter hits out at Turkey's Erdogan

By Paul Myers - RFI
AFP/Matthew Stockman
AFP/Matthew Stockman

Turkish NBA star Enes Kanter has hit out at President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in an opinion piece in the Washington Post. "Anyone who speaks out against him is a target," wrote the New York Knicks centre, after Ankara applied for an Interpol "red notice" against him for alleged links to an anti-government group.

"I am definitely a target. And Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me," he said.

The state news agency Anadolu reported that Turkish authorities applied to the international police agency for a red notice to be issued for Kanter for his alleged links to the group blamed for a failed coup in 2016.

A red notice informs Interpol's officers throughout the world about a suspected criminal wanted in one country.

The Istanbul chief prosecutor's office also prepared paperwork seeking Kanter's extradition, Anadolu said.

Kanter, 26, who has been a vocal critic of Erdogan, has remained in the United States while his teammates prepare for an NBA game on 16 January in London against the Washington Wizards.

He said he preferred to stay at home because he was worried that Turkish government operatives might kidnap him.

Kanter, who moved from the Oaklahoma Thunder to the Knicks in September 2017, says he is often told to keep calm and play ball rather than speak out against Erdogan.

However he said he wants to emulate the philosophy of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the pre-game US anthem to protest aginst racial inequality and social injustice.

"The advice I prefer comes from Colin Kaepernick's Nike ad campaign: 'Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,'" Kanter wrote.

Kanter said that he feared going abroad because he does not have US citizenship nor a US passport.

"I can't risk travelling," he added. "Even if I did, I wouldn't travel this week to Britain.

"Erdogan is a strongman and I knew there would be a backlash for the things I've said about him and the Turkish government, but I didn't know it would be like this."

Former NBA player, Hedo Turkoglu, now a chief advisor to Erdogan and head of the Turkish Basketball Federation, said Kanter's fears about his homeland were part of a smear campaign.

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