Panicky Erdogan govt blocks broadcast of Kanter matches


NEW YORK — Panicking over the growing popularity of the National Basketball Association (NBA) star Enes Kanter, a vocal critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish authorities have reportedly instructed sports broadcaster not to air the NBA’s Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers.

Kanter represents Portland Trail Blazers and S Sport, NBA’s primary television outlet in Turkey, did not air first two games of the NBA Western Conference finals, leaving the basketball fans in the country dejected.

Kanter has aligned himself with exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016. Gulen, a permanent US resident, lives in exile in Pennsylvania.

Kanter, 26, is wanted for arrest in his home country, and Turkish news outlets, largely controlled by the Erdogan government since the coup attempt, describe him as an enemy of the state rather than Turkey’s most accomplished basketball player.

“All these NBA fans, they want to watch the Western Conference finals, but they can’t all because of me. It’s funny and crazy. (The Turkish government) is afraid of an NBA player,” Kanter said in a phone interview to The Washington Poston Tuesday. “I’m not a politician. It’s not my job, but everyone is so scared of Erdogan that I have to step up and speak out for freedom and human rights. It shows it’s a dictatorship in Turkey.”

Kanter said Turkish broadcasters also did not televise the 2016 Western Conference finals between the Warriors and Kanter’s Oklahoma City Thunder.

Kanter has received strong support from the US senator Ron Wyden who has expressed concern for the safety of the basketball star.

Wyden wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, asking for “safe passage” for Kanter. “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.” In January Turkey requested an Interpol red notice for Kanter’s extradition and arrest on terrorism charges. — Agencies