New York Knicks star centre Enes Kanter has revealed he will not travel with the team to London this month over fears for his life.
The Knicks will meet the Washington Wizards on January 19 (NZ time) at London's O2 Arena as part of the NBA's annual trip abroad. However, they'll be without their leading rebounder and second leading scorer because of his long-running feud against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the political dictator in his home country.
Speaking to media after the Knicks 119-112 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday, Kanter said he had spoken to the front office and it was decided he would not travel outside of the US.
Kanter told media he's worried about "spies'' in London.
"I talked to the front office and decided I'm not going,'' Kanter said.
"The freaking lunatic, there's a chance I can get killed out there. I talked to the front office. I'm not going. I'm going to stay here and practice. It's pretty sad. All this stuff affects my career in basketball. I want to help my team win, but because of one lunatic guy I can't even go there to do my job. It's pretty sad. They got a lot of spies there. I can get killed pretty easy.''
Kanter has been vocal in his opposition of Erdogan, who took on the presidency in 2014. In 2017, Kanter's Turkish passport was cancelled and the Turkish government put a warrant out for his arrest for insulting Erdogan. Then, early this year, Kanter's father was arrested by the Turkish government for reportedly being a member of a terror group, despite telling Turkish media he and the family had disowned their son.
In a piece for Time Magazine last year, Kanter addressed why he continues to speak out despite it affecting his family.
"That's exactly why I speak out," Kanter wrote. "The people Erdogan is targeting are my family, my friends, my neighbours, my classmates. I need to speak out, or my country will suffer in silence."
The Knicks, who have Kiwi Ross McMains on the coaching staff, have shown glimpses of their ability but have been wildly inconsistent on their way to a 10-29 record so far this season.