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Enes Kanter announces he will play in Toronto after promise of safety from Turkish retaliation

Jack Baer

For the first time in more than a year, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter will play in an NBA game outside the United States.

The Turkish national announced in a column with The Globe and Mail that he has received enough assurances of his safety from retaliation by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will indeed suit up for the Celtics’ Christmas road game against the Toronto Raptors.

From Kanter:

I want to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement, U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the Celtics, the NBA and my managers for working diligently to make my Christmas game against the Raptors possible and ensuring my safety there. And, on Christmas night, I will play in my first game as a Celtic outside the U.S. when I take the court against the Raptors.

Kanter’s ability to play in games outside of the U.S. has become a regular question since the Turkish government placed a “red notice” on him through Interpol that called for his arrest. He missed multiple games last season, one in Toronto and one in London, out of fear of a political arrest, kidnapping or assassination.

Enes Kanter’s relationship with Turkey

The worries are omnipresent enough that he has had a panic button installed in his bedroom by the FBI due to death threats and claimed to have survived an attempt to return him to Turkey in 2017 while traveling internationally.

Despite a constant threat of retaliation, Kanter has been an outspoken critic against the rule of Erdogan, which has been said by the Washington Post editorial board to be turning Turkey into a totalitarian prison. Kanter has said that he has been attacked by “thugs” from Erdogan’s government in Boston and had a free basketball camp cancelled due to threats from a Turkish consulate.

Kanter’s family in Turkey has experienced even worse consequences, according to Kanter’s column:

There are public figures who have been placed in Turkish prisons just because they’ve exchanged messages with me. There are fans allegedly under investigation for having my autograph or for taking a photo with me. My sister, who is a doctor, cannot get a job because we share the same last name. My father, an academic, was dismissed from his position and arrested; my mother hasn’t communicated with me for years now out of fear that she might get into trouble. All these efforts are just to silence me.

Kanter’s presence will be welcome news for the Celtics, who will be missing big men Robert Williams and Vincent Poirier on Wednesday. Kanter is averaging 7.8 points and 7.3 rebounds this season, and will likely see significant minutes behind Daniel Theis in Toronto.

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