Celtics center Enes Kanter said Saturday he will continue to speak his mind on Turkish politics and human rights issues despite being confronted by two fellow Turks outside a Cambridge mosque on Friday.
Kanter, who has spoken out against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has been exiled from his home country, was approached by two countrymen, one with a cellphone camera, as he and teammate Tacko Fall walked out of Islamic Society of Boston following prayer.
Kanter, one of the more active athletes on social media, recorded the incident on his phone as he and Fall waited for their Uber ride. The two men appeared to be yelling in Turkish, following Kanter.
“They were screaming, they were yelling, they were cursing,” Kanter said Saturday before the Celtics’ open practice at TD Garden. “It was pretty crazy because it’s America and you should be safe to come into a mosque and pray peacefully.”
Kanter, 27, said this was the first time he has been confronted while in the United States. He played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, and Portland Trail Blazers before signing a two-year deal with the Celtics this summer. In May 2017, Kanter was scheduled to conduct a basketball camp in Romania before his passport was revoked and he was stranded for several hours, The NBA worked with the US State Department to get Kanter out of the country.
Kanter has continued to speak openly about his disdain for the Turkish government, and he did not travel to Canada for Portland’s game in Toronto last season for fear of being held at the airport.
After Friday’s incident, Kanter said he received support from teammates, friends, and even a text from Boston’s mayor Martin J. Walsh. Kanter said he also talked with Celtic and NBA officials about getting more security; Kanter and Fall attended the mosque without security.
“I’m used to this. I’ve been getting threats like this the last six, seven years now,” Kanter said. “I’m used to living this way. But in America, it shouldn’t be this way. That’s why I got in touch with a lot of senators and representatives, so I think we’re going to sit down and talk and see what we can do.”
Kanter said he was more concerned with Fall, but noted that he doubted the two men would try to physically confront two NBA players who are 6 feet 11 inches (Kanter) and 7-7 (Fall). There was never any physical contract, but the man with the cellphone kept following Kanter as he waited for the Uber.
“I was just scared, how about if they do something? I mean, more than me, it’s Tacko, I was to protect my Tacko. But it’s not about Boston, it’s about Turkish people,” Kanter said. “I would never, ever blame Boston or people in Boston. I would definitely blame the Turkish people and the Turkish government.”
Kanter said while he was concerned about the incident, it will not prevent him from continuing to speak out against a government he feels is unjust.
“What I’m doing is huge because I’m talking about human rights,” he said. “I’m talking about democracy, freedom, freedom of speech, religion, and expression. I’m talking about justice. So just because I’m talking about these issues and that stuff, I’m going to get threats? I’ll take that. I’ll be OK having security next to me 24/7. But those issues that I’m talking about are way bigger than myself and basketball.”