Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter discussed his political activism extensively when he and teammate Jaylen Brown spoke at the 14th annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference this past weekend.
Specifically, about how his criticisms of Recep Tayyip Erdogan have led to him becoming a major enemy of the Turkish president in a one-on-one interview with Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck.
“They call me a terrorist, but the only thing I terrorize is the basketball rim,” Kanter said, via the conference’s Twitter.
Kanter has not been shy about taking taking a stand for human rights in Turkey. And it’s led to many unfortunate circumstances including his passport being revoked in 2017, while also having been accused him of terrorism, and ultimately receive death threats.
“I don’t know how to answer when people ask where I’m from because the country where I’m from, they don’t want me, they think I’m this bad guy,” Kanter said.
He cannot return to Turkey to see his family, but has totally embraced life in the United States for the freedom of speech and platform it offers him. He plans to become a U.S. citizen next year and has traveled to the nation’s capital to introduce the “Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act.”
His activism is a major reason why Kanter wanted to play in Boston,
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to Boston (in free agency) was, besides basketball, because it’s a very educational and influential town,” Kanter said. “(In other cities), people used to say ‘good game last night, good win last night, good double-double last night.’ Now, people say ‘good op-ed yesterday, good article last night.’ People know what’s going on here, this city is way bigger than basketball.”
That doesn’t mean he’s safe from threats in Boston, however, as he was harassed outside of a mosque in Cambridge, Mass. after a prayer session.
Still, that doesn’t stray him from his cause, because he wants his legacy to be much bigger than basketball as well.
“Once I’m done with my career I want to look back and say, ‘How many people did I inspire? How many people did I help?'” Kanter said.
Kanter’s efforts aren’t going unnoticed.