The New York Knicks adhered to the NBA's rules concerning etiquette during the national anthem Tuesday prior to their preseason opener against the Brooklyn Nets, with the players and coaches all standing and locking arms.
Center Enes Kanter participated in the team's display of unity, which it paired with a statement intended to raise awareness of a number of social issues, but said he would have preferred to do something else.
"If they would've left it up to me, yes, I would've taken a knee," Kanter said following New York's 115-107 loss, according to The New York Daily News' Stefan Bondy. "But as a team, we decided not to take a knee. The most important thing in America is equality and justice. If you don't see these two things in America, I feel really bad. I feel really sad inside."
The 25-year-old is of Turkish descent. The government of Turkey issued an arrest warrant for him over the summer stemming from his support of Fethullah Gulen, an enemy of current president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kanter's allegiance to the Gulen movement - which Erdogan declared a terrorist organization - even led his own family to disown him, with his father penning a public letter apologizing for his son's behavior.
Suffice it to say, Kanter isn't afraid for standing up for what he believes in. On Tuesday night, though, he chose to go with the majority, all the while thinking of those who have protested by kneeling, including NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"I was just talking with one of my teammates, saying, ‘If you’re going to do it, I’ll do it,’" he said. "I understand that the NBA just put out a statement saying nobody is taking a knee or whatever. But I’m really feeling bad for people out there that’s fighting for what’s right. I think what they’re fighting for is what’s right. I have problems with my own country. I feel like whatever we believe, fight for it. Because if you look at America, there’s freedom of speech, and you can protest peacefully."
Kanter said he ultimately wants to find common ground during a period where divisions in the country, whether they be social or political, are glaring.
"We did it as a team. If they’d have left it up to me, I’d have taken a knee. But as a team, we stuck together," Kanter added. "But the most important thing is the leave our differences on the table and try to find what we have in common. Tall, short, black, white, fat, skinny, whatever you are, we need to work together.”