Why Enes Kanter's safety is in danger traveling outside the United States

Why Enes Kanter's safety is in danger traveling outside the United States

During a visit to his native Turkey in 2015, Enes Kanter huddled his family for a conversation about some blowback he worried they'd soon endure given Kanter's growingly outspoken nature towards Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Kanter worried his family would endure harassment and possibly death threats if Kanter continued to use his NBA platform to speak out against the Turkish government.

His family pledged their support but Kanter had a bad feeling about what was ahead.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

"The next day, I remember, I left our apartment, put my bags in a cab, and I turned around and I saw my mom. She was waving. And I'm like, ‘This is the last time I’m seeing my mom,’” said Kanter. "Get in the car, and we left, I’m like, 'I don’t think I’m going to see my mom again. … I got on the plane, we take off, and I’m like, ’This is the last time I’ve seen Turkey,’ because I knew where this was going.’"

Kanter’s premonition was correct. Two years later, the Turkish government revoked his passport, labeled him a terrorist, and issued an Interpol red notice that makes it impossible for him to travel outside the United States without fear of arrest.

On Tuesday, Kanter traveled to Toronto after the Canadian government ensured he could travel safely in their country when the Boston Celtics visit the Raptors on Wednesday afternoon as part of the NBA’s Christmas slate.

Kanter is thrilled not to be stuck back in Boston on the holiday when his mind would otherwise wander to those he was not near — including his teammates, but especially his family. Still the whole process only hammers home the headaches he now endures with hopes of promoting democracy in a homeland he might never set foot in again.

"A terrorist,” said Kanter, scoffing at what he’s been labeled by the Turkish government. "It’s pretty funny. I actually said it, the only thing I terrorize is the basketball rim.”

Kanter said his troubles started in 2013 when he first became vocal about the issues in his homeland. Said Kanter, “There is no freedom — of speech, religion, expression. There’s no democracy.”

The Interpol red notice means that Kanter cannot travel safely outside the United States, where he currently has a green card, without fear of arrest and return to Turkey. In the slow crawl to him becoming an official U.S. citizen in June 2021, he’s avoided any NBA activities outside the states, which nearly became an issue last season when his Portland Trail Blazers made it to the Western Conference finals and a potential Finals matchup with Toronto loomed.

But that started the ball rolling towards gaining Canada’s help in ensuring his safety if he were to travel there for a game. With the help from the Celtics, Kanter got that assurance this week and joined the team for their trip north of the border on Tuesday.

Kanter did not speak to the assembled media Tuesday and the team was tight-lipped on his situation. Mike Zarren, assistant general manager and team counsel, gave a single-sentence statement after Boston’s morning workout noting, "The Celtics don’t generally have any comment on any individual player’s immigration or personal security matters but we’re happy Enes is coming with us to Toronto.”

The Celtics need Kanter. Together with starting center Daniel Theis, he’s tag-teamed most of the big-man minutes for Boston recently with younger bigs Robert Williams (hip bruise) and Vincent Poirier (broken finger) sidelined by injury.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens acknowledged Kanter’s situation but admitted his safety was the priority in all this.

"I think we need Enes, and Enes is a big part of our team but, at the same time, obviously, for his sake and for his peace of mind, that he feels comfortable going.”

An example of why traveling abroad is so dangerous for Kanter. It was on a trip to Romania in May 2017 that he learned his passport had been revoked. A customs agent told Kanter he couldn’t enter the country. 

"I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is ridiculous.’ It was very dangerous because I’m not an American citizen yet,” said Kanter. "Romania, and the Romanian government, couldn’t send me back here safely because I’m a Turkish citizen. As soon as we landed there, I was like, ‘We've got to get out of this country, we have to get back to America as soon as possible.’”

Kanter arranged for a flight to New York via London. But when he touched down in London, police entered the aircraft.

“The captain announced it: Nobody gets up,” said Kanter. “The plane doors open, police with these big machine guns walks in. I’m like, ‘If this police is here for me, it’s over. It is over. I’m not coming back to America ever again.’ They were going right, left, they were trying to search, trying to find somebody, but it was not us.”

Kanter missed his flight to New York and had to stay in the terminal overnight before making the harrowing connection home, thanks in part to a friendly Homeland Security agent.

There is no guarantee all will go smoothly in Canada, but Kanter seemed confident in the days before traveling. He’s simply happy to be with his teammates on the holiday.

“Basketball is my escape. Whenever I step on the court, it’s all about going out there and having fun, winning, fans, basketball, Tacko [Fall], Frenchie [Vincent Poirier]. It’s all about having fun. 

“As soon as you step off the court, the war starts.”

Learn more about Kanter’s situation by listening to this week’s episode of the Enes Kanter Show. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Raptors, which tips off Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike and Scal have the call at 12 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz live stream: Watch NBA game online

Boston Celtics vs. Utah Jazz live stream: Watch NBA game online

The Celtics' western road trip wraps up Wednesday night against the streakiest team in the NBA — the Utah Jazz.

The Jazz's Jekyll-and-Hyde nature is firmly evidenced by what the team has done since Christmas: 10 straight wins, one loss, a four-game win streak, five straight losses, another four-game win streak, followed by their current three-game losing streak.

That rollercoaster ride has landed Utah in fifth place in a crowded Western Conference playoff field.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

As for the Celtics, even though they've slipped a couple of games behind Toronto in the race for the Eastern Conference's second seed, they've opened up a several-game cushion over the Heat and a potential second-round playoff matchup against the Bucks.

Wednesday's matchup between the Celtics and Jazz is the first meeting between the teams this season, and the first of two matchups in 10 days, as the teams will have a rematch in Boston on March 6.

Here's how to watch the Celtics vs. Jazz, including NBC Sports Boston's pregame coverage, beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET. 


Listen and subscribe to our Celtics Talk Podcast>>>


BEFORE THE GAME: At 9:30 p.m., Celtics Pregame Live presented by TD Bank gets you ready for the game with reports from Michael Holley, Chris Mannix, Kyle Draper, Brian Scalabrine, Abby Chin, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Chris Forsberg. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AT HALFTIME: Tune in to watch a breakdown of the first two quarters on Halftime Live presented by Ace Ticket. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, tune to Celtics Postgame Live presented by New England Ford for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch on NBC Sports Boston or click here for the live stream

Questions on our livestream? Get all your questions answered here on our Streaming FAQ.



Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


NBA's Last Two Minute Report says refs were correct on all calls late in Celtics-Lakers

NBA's Last Two Minute Report says refs were correct on all calls late in Celtics-Lakers

The end of the Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers game was marred by some questionable calls. But in the eyes of the NBA, there were no issues with any of the decisions made by the officials in the final two minutes.

According to our own Chris Forsberg, the NBA's Last Two Minute Report marked all the refs calls at the end of the Celtics game as correct.

Celtics fans may find this hard to believe, but it is, in fact, what the league ruled.

The notable calls that C's fans may disagree with from the final two minutes include the following: An out of bounds call that appeared to go off of Anthony Davis' fingertip but was ruled out off the Celtics, a potential foul by Kentavious Caldwell-Pope on Jayson Tatum while chasing a loose ball, and a technical foul called on Brad Stevens.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Oddly, the video review of the first play isn't referenced in the NBA's report. Perhaps because it was already reviewed by the replay center, the call wasn't included.

However, the other two calls are referenced. The potential Caldwell-Pope foul was called "incidental contact" as the two attempted to secure the ball. You can feel free to judge it for yourself via this link to the video highlight.

As for the Stevens technical, the league simply said that "all technical fouls are reviewed by League Operations", so they didn't give an in-depth explanation on that.

Celtics fans may argue that the technical is the most egregious of the calls because of when it was called. There were 15.5 seconds left in a one-point game and the Lakers had the ball. Had Anthony Davis made the technical free throw and the Lakers made two free throws after, the Celtics would've run the risk of being down two possessions instead of one. 

Thankfully, Davis missed and gave the Celtics a chance to at least tie the game late. But it certainly was a tough time to assess a technical foul.

At the end of the day, the Celtics still had plenty of chances to beat the Lakers. And Tatum had a shot at a game-tying three but couldn't get off the shot and committed an offensive foul. The Celtics may have been frustrated by some calls late, but they will surely move on from these decisions ahead of their Tuesday-night clash with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.