Trail Blazers

Enes Kanter considers adding an American name once he becomes a US citizen

Trail Blazers

Enes Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Recep Tayyip Erdogan for years.

The Portland Trail Blazers center called the President of Turkey the “Hitler of our country,” after Erdogan was accused of carrying out several terror attacks and overthrowing democracy in Kanter’s home country.

Because of Kanter’s unwavering beliefs of Erdogan's government and administration over the last few years, the 6-foot-11 center lives a life very different than his NBA counterparts.

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A peek inside Kanter’s living arrangements would reveal the Trail Blazer resides in a hotel room.

Not just temporarily... permanently. 

Wearing a shirt with the words, “we cannot walk alone,” Kanter conducted this exclusive interview with NBC Sports Northwest Trail Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes with a trash can propping up his laptop. 

 

But, why does Kanter choose to live in a hotel vs. a house or apartment?

“Because it’s more security,” Kanter explained of his living situation. “There’s a lobby, there’s people out there that can protect you...

I understand that it can be really tough sometimes, but I think right now that’s the best situation for me.

- Enes Kanter

Following a recent road trip with the team, Kanter said the FBI would pay him a visit to install a panic button within arm’s reach of his bed. It’s become a common amenity for the 28-year-old, like an alarm clock or high-tech thermostat found in most homes.

He’s encouraged to press the button should a threat ever present itself.

Actually, two years ago, I sat down with the FBI and we had a conversation. They said whenever you need us, please don’t hesitate to call us. We’ll be there and you’ll be fine,” Kanter explained. “They come to my room, they set up this thing, and they give me a button. If I feel ever uncomfortable or ever like I worry about anything, they always tell me push that button and we’ll be there in 2 or 3 minutes.”

Turkey sought an international arrest warrant known as "Red Notice" for Kanter in 2019, alleging that he is part of a terrorist organization. His passport was also seized during a layover in 2017 in Romania after the Turkish embassy canceled his passport.

Since then, Kanter won’t travel outside of the United States, and has elected to skip NBA games in London and Toronto over the years. While America has become a safe haven of sorts for the Trail Blazers star, he still lives his life under constant threat.

“The threats are real and I’m still getting them every week,” Kanter said. “But I think America is doing an amazing job at protecting me because when I was with the Boston Celtics, most of the days I was going downstairs where I stayed and there was a police cop waiting for me. I asked our security team, what actually is this for? They are there for you if you ever need them.”

But Kanter has no intentions of backing down on his fierce remarks on Erdogan even as it puts his family in danger.

 

His father, Dr. Mehmet Kanter, began a 15-year prison sentence in 2018 after he was linked to Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkey blames for a failed coup attempt in 2016. Gülen and members of his religious movement known as FETO have been designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey ever since.

Mehmet Kanter was released in 2020 after charges were dropped.

“My Dad finally got his freedom because he was going in and out of jails, in and out of Turkish courts,” Kanter explained. “But whenever he got his freedom, a lot of my teammates, ex-teammates, coaches and people messaged me and say ‘hey, listen, you can finally relax now. You can finally focus on what you need to focus on.’ But one thing I want them to understand and I even like told them, I never did this only to free my father. My family and my Dad is only one...

There are thousands of stories, thousands of families out there, whose situation is way worse than mine.

- Enes Kanter

While Kanter would be arrested if he ever returned to Turkey, the 10-year NBA veteran can remain in the U.S. indefinitely. Kanter had a green card issued to him in 2016 and says he plans to become a U.S. citizen this June.

“I’m even thinking about adding an American name,” Kanter said. “I think it’s an amazing honor to become a citizen here. I’m just like why not?  Why not add an American name?”

As Kanter looks to navigate an unusual lifestyle filled with a swiveling Rolodex of hotel room chains in rotation and death threats routinely directed his way, he said having people like Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden and his fellow Trail Blazers in his corner makes him optimistic for the future. 

“I think the one thing that gives me so much hope and so much energy is my teammates,” Kanter said. “Because those people, the coaches and the organization is like my family. My teammates are like my brothers.”