New York Knicks Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter has claimed that he doesn't want to travel to London as he is afraid there is a chance that he will be killed there.
The reason that Kanter believes his life is in danger is because he is an outspoken critic of controversial Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and, in a bizarre twist former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, who is now a chief adviser to Erdogan, has claimed that Kanter's words are part of a "political smear campaign" by the center.
Kanter has stated that he would not travel to London for a game against the Washington Wizards on January 17th because "there's a chance that I can get killed out there", while the New York Knicks maintain his absence will be because of ongoing visa issues.
Turkoglu poured scorn Kanter's claims on twitter, citing visa issues as the real reason the player is exempt from traveling, and criticised his compatriot for trying to 'attribute importance to himself':
We know that [Kanter] has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017," Turkoglu said 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.
Kanter is reportedly in hot water in Turkey after being indicted by the Istanbul Cyber Crimes Investigation Bureau last year for "hurtful and humiliating" comments made about Turkoglu, who is also the president of the Turkish Basketball Federation.
As well as that, in December 2017, reports from Turkey stated that prosecutors were seeking more than four years in prison for Kanter on charges of insulting Erdogan in a series of tweets he posted in 2016.
The 26-year-old is adamant that he would be a target for assassination, even in the UK, by the Turkish government:
Oh yeah, easy. They've got a lot of spies there. I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation.