Enes Kanter, Boston Celtics center and outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, says of his NBA fame that he's "trying to use this platform to be the voice of all those innocent people who don't have one." Kanter, who is Turkish, was born in Switzerland but primarily raised in Turkey, and he has frequently incurred the ire of the Turkish government for his activism.
"Lots of people talk about these issues. But they're either in jail or they don't have a platform," Kanter said. "Just because I play in the NBA, I have this huge platform. I'm trying to use this platform to be the voice of all those innocent people who don't have one. So, when I tweet something, when I talk about some of these issues, when I come to D.C. here and talk with the politicians, it becomes a conversation. It goes viral everywhere."
Kanter spoke with CBS News chief Washington correspondent Major Garrett for this week's episode of "The Takeout" podcast.
He made news in 2017 when the Turkish government revoked his passport, and he was grounded in Romania. In a video he tweeted from the Romanian airport, he told his followers about his plight and called Erdogan "the Hitler of our century."
The NBA worked with the State Department to release him, according to the New York Times. After he was released by the Romanian government, Kanter said he was able to travel to London and then to New York before Turkish intelligence officials sought his apprehension. Kanter told Garrett that when he finally landed in New York, he thought: "This is home. I'm never leaving again." At the time Kanter was playing for the New York Knicks.
The basketball player is also a friend of Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdogan who is living in exile in Pennsylvania. Kanter was educated in a Gulenist school in Turkey as a child. Erdogan blamed Gulen for organizing the attempted coup against him in 2017, an allegation Kanter refuted.
"Are you kidding me? I was with Gulen that night," Kanter explained, saying he visits Gulen's Pennsylvania home to feel as if he is back home in Turkey.
Kanter also expanded on his comparison of Erdogan with Hitler, saying that Erdogan had committed human rights abuses such as jailing journalists and other dissenters.
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