Knicks center Enes Kanter is staying back in the United States, citing concerns for his safety owing to his outspoken criticism of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Going to London? I talked to the front office. Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president. There's a chance I can get killed out there," Kanter told The Athletic's Mike Vorkunov.
Kanter explained in August that his country's government revoked his passport due to his ties to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, a bitter rival of Erdogan who has been exiled from the country. The Turkish government has accused Gulen of masterminding a 2016 coup d'etat which failed to overthrow the Erdogan government, an accusation that Gulen denies. Kanter feels he risks extradition to Turkey should he leave North America.
Instead, Kanter says he intends to stay back in New York and practice. In any case, the Knicks' schedule returns to normalcy with a home tilt versus the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 21.
"It's pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball because I want to be out there and help my team win," Kanter added. "But just because of one lunatic guy, one maniac, one dictator, I can't even go out there and do my job. It's pretty sad."