Enes Kanter: "I'm getting death threats almost every day"

Turkish-born NBA player Enes Kanter has returned to the United States after his home country revoked his passport.

Kanter, who plays center for the Oklahoma City Thunder, has long been an outspoken critic of Turkey's President Erdogan. He says Turkey canceled his passport in retaliation for his political views.

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The Turkish-born NBA player describes how he made it back to the U.S. after Turkey canceled his passport over, he believes, his criticism of President Erdogan's violent crackdown.

CBS News

Last year, Turkey revoked the passports for tens of thousands of Turkish citizens living abroad.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning" Monday, Kanter said the trouble began while he was in Indonesia: "I was sleeping around 2:30 or something and my manager knocked on my door. He said the Secret Service and the Indonesian army were looking for me because the Turkish government told them I was a dangerous man.

"We didn't know what we had to do. We escaped the country and went to Singapore, then we came to Romania."

He was detained at an airport in Bucharest, where he was told that his Turkish passport had been canceled and he was not allowed in the country.

After flying to London, the 6-foot-11-inch Kanter was allowed to fly to the United States. "I want to say thank you to Homeland Security, State Department, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA, NBPA -- we were all working as a team," he said. "It was definitely a crazy moment!"

Kanter's tale comes at a time when Erdogan has declared a new state of emergency. He has arrested 120 journalists, closed more than 150 news outlets and jailed 140,000 people.

Kanter believes Erdogan used last year's coup attempt as an excuse to crack down and that "he wants to be a one-man show. … The victims are the innocent people. That's why he was trying to blame them because they were speaking the truth."

And Kanter believes he is one of Erdogan's targets because he has been an outspoken critic -- so much so, Kanter has been disowned by his own family.

"Of course, it's tough," he said. "But I stand by what I believe. I want to be the voice for those innocent people. And I believe what I'm doing is right."

"Do you think your life is in danger? That your family is in danger?" asked "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King.

"I'm getting death threats almost every day, still," Kanter said. "I believe when I leave this set, when I leave this room, I'm going to keep getting death threats, but you know what? I stand by what I believe."

While he says he hopes to one day return to Turkey, he doesn't see that happening any time soon.

"I love my country," he said. "One day I definitely want to go back to my country, but right now my life is in danger, my family's life is in danger. I can't communicate with my family because if they knew they communicated with me, they'll be in jail."

"And you'll continue to speak up even though your life is in danger?" asked King.

"There are thousands of journalists, thousands of innocent people, moms, dads, lost their homes, lost their jobs. I want to be the voice of them," he replied.

Amid tensions over the Turkish leader's authoritarian crackdown and human rights abuses, Erdogan met with President Trump last week at the White House.

Eleven people were hurt in violent clashes between protesters and Erdogan's security team. The Secret Service is investigating.  

Nine Hurt in Violent Demonstration at Turkish Ambassador's Residence by VOA News on YouTube

On a separate topic, Kanter was asked his prediction on who will win this year's NBA Finals.

"That's a nice question!" he said. "I don't like Golden State. That's why I'm shooting for Cleveland."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.