Enes Kanter Refuses to Bow to Erdogan or Anyone

When the founding fathers of America threw tea into the Boston Harbor and aimed their muskets at Redcoats, it was to protest unjust rule. Rule by a monarch who the colonists thought overstepped his power through the levying of taxes and other perceived injustices. When compared to what Enes Kanter is going through today in his personal battle with Turkey and Turkish “President” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, that notion seems quaint. The founding fathers had thousands of brothers in arms. Enes Kanter is alone in a land not of his birth, fighting a dictator who violently and successfully suppressed a coup. Yet Kanter continues his fight to preach basketball fundamentals and true inclusivity; if you want to play, you can play, regardless of religion, skin color, or gender. Enes Kanter is a true modern-day Patriot.

Kanter is one of those true patriots who must love his country from afar. As things sit right now, Kanter is banned from heading home. In 2017, he called the Turkish president, “the Hitler of our century,” in response to how Erdogan suppressed a 2016 coup. While “the Hitler of our century,” might be an overreach, the coup left more than 300 people dead, 2,100 injured and included the detaining of 40,000 people; a group that consisted of soldiers, judges, and the revocation of licenses from teachers. That number would continue to grow in the following months to more than 50,000 arrests and 160,000 people fired from their jobs.

He might not be an exact comparison to Hitler, but Erdogan is a dangerous state leader that more closely resembles a dictator. Proving the point, Erdogan’s response was to pull Kanter’s passport in 2017. Now almost two full years later, the 6’11 center cannot go home to Turkey. He cannot see his father. The newly signed Boston Celtics big man continues his dissent from the confines of his second home; the basketball court.

The Turkish star is on a mission to bring free basketball fundamentals to as many people in the United States as possible. He is the main attraction at “The Maestro Sports Camps,” where the camps serve as a charity and a chance to give back to communities, “whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or have no faith at all.” But like most politically active athletes, Kanter is at his most effective when someone is barring him from the simple activity of playing the sport, or in his case, conducting the camps.

This was the case back in June when the Islamic Center of Long Island decided to close down one of the camps in response to what may or may not have been threats from the Turkish Consulate of New York. Even in the United States, Kanter is getting harassed by the Turkish government. But here is the thing; Kanter is a true patriot. It does not appear that any amount of pressure or outside forces from someone he deems “the Hitler of our Century” is going to stop him from doing what he loves; teaching basketball and wanting the best for his country.

Sometimes big men can act small. This is not the case with Enes Kanter. At 6’11, he is a true giant. But his manner of protesting Erdogan while bringing joy to American children of all stripes is the type of thing that makes Paul Bunyan look like a lilliputian. He teaches how to box out, and then prostrates himself on a prayer rug. The next day he shows how to do a crossover before explaining why he continues his fight against a runaway president and government. For Enes Kanter, basketball is a job and way of making a life, but no life is worth living if you do not stand up for the things you believe in–whether that be family, religion, or country. Even if it means getting barred from ever going home, from ever seeing your family again. Yet through it all, he continues his fight, the fight of a true patriot.