BOSTON -- Enes Kanter has not minced words when it comes to voicing his opposition to the Turkish government and their president Tayyip Erdoğan.
And judging by the arrest warrant the Turkish government has issued for him, a wild cross-country chase by the government for Kanter in 2017, which included Turkey canceling Kanter’s passport, the level of disdain between the two is mutual.
But all those events occurred outside the United States, which makes the incident involving Kanter and two Turkish-speaking men after he left a local mosque after praying on Friday, “crazy and scary.”
Accompanied by teammate and fellow Muslim Tacko Fall, Kanter was approached and harassed at a mosque near the team’s practice facility on Friday.
Kanter tweeted a video of the incident:
Hello Everyone!#DictatorErdogan @RTErdogan thugs attacked and threatened me today after Friday prayer in Boston at a mosque
Turkish Government don't even let me practice my religion freely in America let alone my freedom of speech is under attack@FBI@FBIBoston@bostonpolice pic.twitter.com/FH2Ixe6QcY— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 4, 2019
“It’s the first time [it] happened in America,” Kanter said. “It was definitely scary. I was looking at Tacko; I said, ‘Tacko, don’t worry, I got you. We’re good. We’re fine.’ We were just waiting for our Uber. It was crazy and scary.”
Danny Ainge, the Celtics' president of basketball operations, said he was on an email chain with team security discussing the incident.
On Saturday, Ainge said he had not had a chance to talk with Kanter directly about what happened.
“But he has been talked to by our staff and our people,” Ainge said. “There will be more communication going on with that.”
Soon after the video detailing the event went viral, Kanter said he received calls from teammates, coaches as well as local and state officials who have closely monitored the goings-on between Kanter and his home country since he became a Celtic.
Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey, who met with Kanter this past summer, expressed his outrage over the incident.
I am outraged that @EnesKanter would be harassed after attending religious services. He should be able to practice his Muslim faith without being harassed. In America, our Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of religion. #EnesKanter pic.twitter.com/gZQ6mxi0du— Ed Markey (@EdMarkey) October 5, 2019
“It definitely means a lot to see a lot of support from the Boston people,” Kanter said.
As far as his safety is concerned, Kanter said he feels safe, but acknowledged he has been in contact with the FBI and other law enforcement officials related to the incident.
In addition to increased awareness on the part of law enforcement officials, Kanter anticipates having added security - possibly around-the-clock protection - in the near future.
“I’m used to this,” Kanter said. “I’ve been getting threats like this the last six, seven years. I’m used to living this way. But in America, it shouldn’t be this way.”
And while Kanter has grown accustomed to dealing with such incidents internationally, he seemed particularly bothered by what happened Friday due to it happening here in the United States as well as with Celtics rookie Tacko Fall next to him.
“It’s just sad,” Kanter said. “Next to me there was a rookie, Tacko, and he felt very uncomfortable.”
And while the incident occurred here in Boston, Kanter was emphatic in not drawing any connections between the Turkish-speaking men who approached him at the mosque, and Bostonians.
“It’s not about Boston. It’s about Turkish people. I would never blame Boston or people in Boston,” Kanter said. “I blame the Turkish people and the Turkish government.”
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