Former Turkish basketball player Hedo Turkoglu slammed New York Knicks forward Enes Kanter over Kanter's decision to skip a game in London due to alleged fears he could be killed over his opposition to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkoglu, the current president of the Turkish Basketball Federation and a chief adviser to Erdogan, accused Kanter of “trying to get in the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.”
Kanter told reporters Friday he would be missing the Knicks’ game against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 17 because he believes he could be assassinated for his support for a U.S.-based Turkish cleric accused by Turkey’s government of masterminding a failed military coup in 2016.
“I talked to the front office and sadly I’m not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president,” Kanter said. “There’s a chance I can get killed out there. That’s why I talked to the front office, and I’m not going so I’m just going to stay here and just practice here.”
When asked if he really thought he could be killed if he went to the United Kingdom, he replied, “Oh yeah, easy. They’ve got a lot of spies there. I think I can get killed there very easy. It would be a very ugly situation.”
Turkoglu said Kanter’s remarks amounted to a “smear campaign” against Erdogan.
“Kanter not only targeted the Republic of Turkey, governed by the rule of law, with unjust accusations but he also regarded the British security forces as weak and attempted to harm Turkish-British relations,” the statement read. “It is obvious that this person’s remarks are irrational and distort the truth.”
Kanter has been a vocal critic of Erdogan for years, once referring to him as “the Hitler of our century.” His Turkish passport was revoked in 2017 and an international warrant for his arrest was issued by Turkey.
Kanter’s father, Mehmet, was indicted last year and charged with “membership in a terror group.” The former professor lost his job after the failed military coup even though he publicly disavowed his son and his beliefs.
In July, Kanter told Fox News he gets “three or four death threats every week.” He said he believed the threats are from pro-Erdogan supporters both in Turkey and outside of it.
Kanter said he feels safe in the U.S.
“But anywhere outside America would be very dangerous,” he said.
Fox News’ Kathleen Joyce contributed to this report.