Hedo Turkoglu calls Enes Kanter's safety fears 'political smear' against Turkey

Knicks center Enes Kanter’s comments about Turkey amount to a “political smear campaign,” says former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, a chief adviser to the country’s president.

Kanter has said he wouldn’t accompany the Knicks to London for a Jan. 17 game against the Wizards because “there’s a chance I can get killed out there” over his outspoken and ongoing clash with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We know that he has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017,” Turkoglu said of Kanter in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday. “In other words, Kanter can’t enter the UK not because of fears for life as he claims but due to passport and visa issues. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.

“Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradictions in his sports career. … It is obvious that this person’s remarks are irrational and distort the truth.”

Turkoglu played in the NBA from 2000 to 2015, including eight seasons with the Magic.

The Knicks say a visa issue will prevent Kanter from traveling to England, however, according to The Athletic, Kanter claims there’s no such visa issue and planned to release a travel document later Monday as proof. Turkoglu is criticizing him because he’s a “lap dog” for the Turkish government, Kanter said. 

The dispute between Kanter and Erdogan springs in part from the player’s outspoken support of Turkish cleric Fethulla Gulen, who is based in the U.S. but who Erdogan accuses of being behind a failed attempt to overthrow Erdogan’s government. Gulen denies the accusation, but the failed coup attempt reportedly has led to thousands being punished in Turkey.

Turkey’s state-run news agency reported in 2017 that prosecutors were seeking that Kanter be sentenced to more than four years in prison for insulting Erdogan in a series of tweets the year before.

As part of the fallout, Kanter’s Turkish passport was canceled in 2017 and he was held for a time at a Romania airport before returning to the U.S.