The National Basketball Players Association issued a statement Thursday in support of Enes Kanter after the Turkish big man took to social media to call out mistreatment from Denver Nuggets fans and the NBA Turkey Twitter account.
“The National Basketball Players Association fully supports our players using their platforms to stand up for their beliefs and the principles they support. We stand with Enes and, as with all of our players, will work to ensure that he is treated fairly and with respect.”
After playing a vital role in the Portland Trail Blazers’ Game 2 win over the Nuggets on Wednesday, center Kanter was curiously left out of a tweet by the NBA Turkey Twitter account referencing the top performers from the game. Kanter took notice, tweeting his frustration following the game.
Kanter also responded Thursday on Twitter to a heckle from a Nuggets fan during Game 2. After a brief altercation near the end of the game where Kanter and Gary Harris were assessed technical fouls, the crowd chanted “Kanter sucks!” with one fan yelling “Go back to Turkey, oh wait, you can’t!”
In a statement Thursday, the NBA said fans in Turkey could still watch Kanter and the Trail Blazers on NBA League Pass and NBA TV International, and that the league had ended its deal with NBA Turkey Twitter.
“The NBA Turkey Twitter account was managed by a local vendor, and we are terminating that relationship,” NBA deputy commissioner and COO Mark Tatum said in the news release.
Kanter is effectively banned from returning to his home country and has a warrant out for his arrest in Turkey. In January, officials in Istanbul were seeking a “red notice” through Interpol, asking law enforcement to detain and hand Kanter over to Turkish authorities. Kanter is an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a supporter of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government considers the leader of a terrorist organization.
In Turkey, Kanter’s Twitter account has been banned for the last couple of years, and games he plays in have been censored as well. Game 2 against the Nuggets was initially on the schedule to be shown on S Sport Cable Network, which did not end up airing the game.
Kanter’s issue with Turkey dates to 2017 when the government cancelled his passport and sought an arrest warrant. Kanter has a green card, but because of the issues with his safety and passport, did not travel to London in January when he was with the Knicks, or to Toronto in February as a member of the Blazers.
Wednesday’s incident isn’t the first time Kanter has been part of a social media controversy involving his issues with Turkey. Last December, the NBA Europe Instagram put up a post “celebrating the best Turkish talent in the NBA,” and had three players shown: Ersan Ilyasova, Cedi Osman and Furkan Korkmaz.
Kanter tweeted about the omission, saying, “Scared to put my name up there lol… U scared little rats.” Kanter received an apology from the NBA, and a personal apology from commissioner Adam Silver.
The NBA Europe account put up a corrected post soon after including Kanter, with an apology. Kanter tweeted, “Apology accepted.”