Enes Kanter somehow manages to smile, despite being under constant duress.
The Boston Celtics center revealed Monday in an interview with CBS Boston’s David Wade he receives death threats “almost every day” due to his outspoken opposition to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the longtime head of state in his native Turkey. Kanter’s revelation follows an incident in which two men confronted him Friday outside a mosque in Cambridge, cursing and calling him a “traitor.” He is used to receiving abuse online, but this marked a dramatic escalation to the hostility some Turks feel toward him.
“They were harassing me and verbally attacking me in America,” Kanter said. “First time ever. … I don’t think they (Turkey’s government) can do any operations in America, but I mean I’m getting death threats almost every day.”
Kanter, 27, has ties to the (Fethullah) Gulen movement, a group Erdogan accuses of participating in a failed coup attempt in 2016 in Turkey. Erdogan cracked down fiercely on Gulen members, and his regime in 2017 canceled Kanter’s passport and sought his arrest and imprisonment.
Kanter continues to speak out against Erdogan and told reporters he’d consider enlisting the protection of “24/7” security. He also is mulling becoming a United States citizen.
Nevertheless, the threats against Kanter’s safety haven’t dimmed his excitement over his debut season with the Celtics. He intends to help improve the team’s chemistry in order to surpass expectations in 2019-20.
“You can be the best team on paper, best talented team, but if the chemistry is not there, you are not going to be successful,” Kanter said. “My thing is be a good locker room guy, be that glue guy, be the guy that when the team is going wrong, when somebody is down, just lift them up.”
Perhaps basketball is the solace Kanter needs in order to maintain his composure and focus in these troubled times.
Thumbnail photo via Jaime Valdez/USA TODAY Sports Images