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New Celtic Enes Kanter seeks an assist from US senators

(From left), Senator Ed Markey, Enes Kanter, and Senator Ron Wyden.
(From left), Senator Ed Markey, Enes Kanter, and Senator Ron Wyden.pHOTO COURTESY OF THE Office of Senator Ed MarkeY

New Celtics center Enes Kanter met with Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday to discuss the basketball player’s ability to travel outside the United States for the upcoming NBA season.

Kanter mentioned in his introductory news conference last week that he planned to meet with Markey in hopes that he will be allowed to compete internationally this season. As a member of the Portland Trail Blazers last season, Kanter skipped the team’s road game against the Raptors in Toronto in March. Kanter also played for the New York Knicks in 2017-18 and remained in the States when the team traveled to London for a game against the Washington Wizards.

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A native of Turkey, Kanter has been critical of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2017, Erdogan revoked Kanter’s passport and issued an arrest warrant for the 27-year-old. Kanter has subsequently limited his international travel for fear of arrest.

“I thank Senators Markey and Wyden for their leadership [and] support not only for their efforts to restore basic human rights for myself, like travel [and] freedom of speech, but also indirectly helping millions of others in my shoes under Dictator Erdogan’s oppression in Turkey,” Kanter said in a statement.

Markey said in a statement last week he would do “whatever necessary” to ensure Kanter would be able to travel safely to do his job this season.

“Setting aside our respect for Enes Kanter as a professional basketball player and athlete, we applaud Mr. Kanter’s willingness to speak freely against authoritarianism, even as he and his family are threatened,” Markey and Wyden said in a joint statement issued Tuesday.

“We oppose any attempt by foreign leaders to weaponize international law enforcement to track down and punish those who rightly call out their oppression. We are committed to working with Mr. Kanter so that he can travel safely outside the United States to fully do his job and exercise his right to free speech.”

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