Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden sent a letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking him to guarantee the safety of Portland center Enes Kanter should the Trail Blazers meet the Toronto Raptors in the NBA Finals.
Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has been accused in his home country of having terrorist links, which Kanter has denied. Kanter has been estranged from Turkey since his passport was canceled in 2017 and the country sought his detainment through Interpol.
“I ask your government to facilitate Mr. Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada should the Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, Canada, in the upcoming NBA Finals,” the letter reads. “I also urge your government to state publicly that it will not comply with any Interpol red notice meant to interfere with Mr. Kanter’s livelihood and to intimidate him and his family back in Turkey.”
Wyden has been a supporter of Kanter since he joined the Blazers in February, after the New York Knicks bought out his contract.
“I have full confidence to myself and my team to win the Western Conference finals,” Kanter said to ESPN, via text message. “Going to Toronto will be a bit hectic for me for the reasons you know, and I know Senator Wyden is working hard to make sure that I can make it and I really appreciate it.
“On the other side, I know the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Justin Trudeau is a good leader and I have confidence in him to help with my situation. I know this because he’s already helping many more Turkish citizens, in the Hizmet movement, who are oppressed by the Dictator Erdogan regime right now.”
Kantor has skipped some games out of security concerns. While with the Knicks, he didn’t travel to London for a game against Washington in January. He also didn’t go with the Blazers when they played in Toronto in March.
There is a “red notice” through Interpol for Kanter, which means he could be taken into custody and sent to Turkey.
Kanter told ESPN that he has fears about the situation.
“On another note, even if Senator Wyden and PM Trudeau does their best, Dictator Erdogan will try using/abusing all his powers to manipulate red notice system through Interpol,” Kanter said. “As you know, I am a law abiding citizen both in Turkey and here in the U.S. — I never broke a single law in my life, didn’t even have a parking ticket, but Turkish government cancels my passport... WHY? it’s simply because I’m an outspoken critic of Dictator Erdogan. So, Erdogan might push all his chances through Interpol, which I believe he tries abusing it.”
Kanter has a green card and has applied for U.S. citizenship, but the process won’t be finalized until 2021, according to ESPN.
As part of Turkey’s continuing feud with Kanter, the NBA’s Western Conference finals will not be televised in the country, Reuters reported.
The NBA playoffs have been televised in Turkey since broadcasts became available in the 1990s. The NBA Finals also will not be televised in Turkey if the Trail Blazers are involved.
The Trail Blazers will meet the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. Game 1 is set for Tuesday night in Oakland, Calif.
—Field Level Media