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Celtics’ Enes Kanter speaks in support of Turkey human rights bill

Enes Kanter.
Enes Kanter. Scott Eisen/Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter appeared at a press conference alongside Senators Edward J. Markey and Ron Wyden in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday as the lawmakers introduced legislation condemning President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey ahead of his White House visit.

“You guys know my story because I play in the NBA. But there are thousands and thousands of stories way, way worse than mine,” Kanter told reporters Tuesday. “So that’s why I’m trying to use my platform to be a voice for all those innocent people who don’t have one.”

The legislation rebukes Erdogan for targeting political dissidents as terrorists and calls for the release of political prisoners.

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Kanter tweeted a photo of himself standing outside the US Capitol building Tuesday morning.

Kanter, who was raised in Turkey, is a frequent and outspoken critic of Erdogan and has become a target of the Turkish leader and his allies. The Turkish government revoked Kanter’s passport in 2017 and later issued a warrant for his arrest. Kanter has missed games outside of the US for fear of arrest or retaliation for his views if he travels abroad.

Last month, Kanter said he was harassed by pro-Erdogan individuals as he left a Cambridge mosque with teammate Tacko Fall.

Kanter told the Globe at the time that he had never seen the two men before and that they cursed at him, called him “traitor,” indicated that he should not be here, and made an obscene gesture at him.

Asked during the press conference why he continues to speak out in the face of threats against him and his family, Kanter said the plight of those suffering human rights abuses in Turkey is more important.

“It’s bigger than myself, it’s bigger than the NBA, it’s bigger than basketball,” he said. “I have a platform, and when I tweet or when I say something about it, it starts a conversation.”

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In a widely read Globe op-ed in the wake of the October incident, Kanter vowed to continue speaking out.

“As they increase the pressure, I raise my voice. I won’t be deterred. They’re wasting their time,” Kanter wrote of the Turkish government.

Erdogan’s White House visit, planned for Wednesday, has been condemned by Democrats and even a small number of Republicans in the wake of Turkey’s invasion of Syria.

In a letter sent last week, 17 House lawmakers urged Trump to rescind his invitation to Erdogan, citing the invasion.

“President Erdogan’s calamitous actions in Syria follow a long list of disconcerting steps under his leadership,” the group of 15 Democrats and two Republicans wrote.

Kanter was also scheduled to meet with Representative Seth Moulton for a briefing on human rights in Turkey, according to the AP.


Previous Globe coverage was used in this report. Christina Prignano can be reached at christina.prignano@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @cprignano.