LOS ANGELES — New York center Enes Kanter will not travel to London for the Knicks’ upcoming international game because he believes he could be assassinated for his opposition to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kanter announced his plan Friday night after the Knicks’ 119-112 win over the Lakers. The Knicks later said Kanter also won’t make the trip because of a visa issue.
Kanter will stay in New York while the Knicks travel to face Washington at The O2 arena in London on Jan. 17. He says he can’t travel anywhere except the US and Canada because ‘‘there’s a chance I could get killed out there.’’
‘‘Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president,’’ Kanter said. ‘‘It’s pretty sad that all the stuff affects my career and basketball, because I want to be out there and help my team win. But just because of the one lunatic guy, one maniac, one dictator, I can’t even go out there and do my job. It’s pretty sad.’’
Kanter has been a vocal critic of Erdogan for years, once referring to him as ‘‘the Hitler of our century.’’ Kanter’s Turkish passport was revoked in 2017, and an international warrant for his arrest was issued by Turkey.
Kanter is a follower of a US-based Turkish cleric accused by Turkey’s government of masterminding a failed military coup in 2016.
Kanter said it would be ‘‘easy’’ for an attempt on his life to be made in London.
‘‘They've got a lot of spies there,’’ he added. ‘‘I think I can get killed there easy. It would be a very ugly situation.’’
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.
‘‘People often ask me why I continue to speak out if it’s hurting my family,’’ Kanter wrote in a column for Time magazine last year. ‘‘But that’s exactly why I speak out. The people Erdogan is targeting are my family, my friends, my neighbors, my classmates. I need to speak out, or my country will suffer in silence.’’