The NBA supports the decision Enes Kanter made to stay behind while the Knicks traveled to London, and commissioner Adam Silver said the league is taking reports of Turkey issuing an extradition notice for the 26-year-old center “very seriously.”
“My stance is I think it’s very unfortunate Enes Kanter is not here with the New York Knicks,” Silver said of Kanter not making the trip to London (via Marc Berman of the New York Post). “I absolutely understand his reasoning why he elected not to come. Certainly, there wasn’t a suggestion to the league not to come on this trip. We live in a world, these are really significant issues that he’s dealing with. I recognize for the NBA that by virtue of a fact we’re a global business, we have to pay attention to these issues.”
Sources tell Berman that the NBA won’t act until official extradition is made and the league will work with the State Department should that occur.
Turkish prosecutors are seeking an international arrest warrant for Kanter, accusing him of associating with a terrorist group and providing funds to Fethullah Gulan, a Muslim cleric who previously resided in Turkey. Gulan currently lives in Pennsylvania and the U.S. Government does not consider him a terrorist.
Kanter, who refutes any wrongdoing, has repeatedly has spoken out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling him a “maniac” and “the Hitler of our century.” The NBA will not approach Kanter about toning down his criticism of the Turkish Government.
“There’s nothing more important as commissioner of the league than the safety of our players,” Silver said. “We take very seriously the threats he’s received — even if it’s people on social media. I support Enes as a player in this league. I support the platform players have to speak out on issues that are important to them.”
Kanter isn’t going to be extradited based on the claims of Erdogan — or at least that’s the opinion of Sports Illustrated’s legal expert Michael McCann.
Extradition is a multi-step process that can take years to complete and the probability of it occurring in Kanter’s situation is “very low,” McCann writes. It’s unclear whether Turkey possesses any evidence of Kanter committing any wrongdoing, something that would be needed for the U.S. to comply with Turkey’s request, McCann adds.
It has also been reported that Turkey will file a “red notice” with the International Police Organization also known as Interpol. The organization doesn’t have the authority to arrest anyone and is usually used to more effectively share information between countries regarding the whereabouts of a potential fugitive or unlawful figure.
As McCann notes, Turkey requesting Kanter be placed on “red notice” is curious. Kanter’s whereabouts are mostly known publicly because of his team’s schedule. He’s active on social media and he’s a 6’11” human walking around the U.S., one who is unlikely to leave North America because of immigration status.
One thing is clear: Kanter won’t be sent to Turkey based on his criticism of Erdogan, as freedom of speech is protected in the U.S. Kanter previously said he did not travel with the Knicks for the London trip for fear he would be assassinated by Turkish spies as a result of his criticism.
“Anyone who speaks out against him is a target,” Kanter wrote of Erdogan in an op-ed in The Washington Post. “I am definitely a target. And Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me.”
Berman spoke with a Turkish basketball reporter who was at the Knicks-Wizards London game and talked to the New York Post scribe on the condition of anonymity. The reporter said that “no one likes Enes in Turkey right now,” adding that Kanter could be “attacked in the USA” as easily as he could be in London.
Kanter won’t have major issues traveling to any of the NBA’s 30 home arena. He has made arrangements with the U.S. government to travel with the Knicks to Canada when they play the Raptors in Toronto.
The 26-year-old center is currently on the trade block for New York, as the team is in the midst of a youth movement. There have been no reports of rival teams shying away from acquiring him because of his political friction with the Turkish Government.
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