Knicks center Enes Kanter told CNN he has received "hundreds and hundreds of death threats, almost every day" over his comments regarding the Turkish government and him not traveling to London for fear of his life.
Kanter will not be flying to London for the Knicks' matchup with the Washington Wizards next week because he said he feared "spies" could target him, saying, "There's a chance that I can get killed out there."
He said he spoke with teammates and the front office expressing his desire to go, however he would not have had as much freedom on the trip given safety concerns
"My team said, first they said you can go to London but you cannot leave your room; you have to be with security 24/7," Kanter said on CNN. "All you can do is just go to practice and go to your room, go to the game and go back to your room. ... Later on, we talked to my teammates and the front office, and they said the best way, let's not risk it. Let's just stay here. You can cheer us from New York. I just did not want to risk it."
NBA spokesperson Mike Bass told The Daily Beast's Robert Silverman that while the NBA has held numerous games internationally, "this is a very unique and unprecedented situation."
Kanter is a wanted criminal in Turkey because of his criticism against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he once called "the Hitler of our century".
Kanter had his passport revoked by the Turkish government the last time he traveled overseas, and he was nearly seized by Turkish intelligence in Indonesia in spring 2017 when he was on tour for his charitable foundation. He was released in Romania, and once he returned to North America, has not left since.
"[If] I was him, I'd be concerned, too," Knicks owner James Dolan told Silverman. "I don't blame him at all. I'm totally OK with it."
Former NBA player and current chief adviser to Erdogan Hedo Turkoglu said Kanter could not travel to London because of "passport and visa issues," however Kanter posted on social media and showed CNN a copy of a travel document that he said allowed him to travel anywhere in the world.
"I tried to explain that it isn't a visa issue and they got it," Kanter told CNN about explaining that issue with the Knicks. "But sadly, the Turkish media took that and used it against me. ... I have a travel document that says I can go anywhere in the world."
After Turkoglu's comments, Kanter called him a "lap dog" for Erdogan.
"It's probably not [Turkoglu], but the president making him say it," Kanter said earlier this week. "If you look at his Twitter, it's German, English and Turkish. It's three languages, and he doesn't even know German. They're probably making him do it. He's kind of like his puppy dog. Lap dog is better. He probably got so much money for that."
Kanter's family has also been involved, as his father, Mehmet, was arrested and indicted for being a "member of a terror group," which Kanter said was a way of the Turkish government punishing him.
Kanter, according to Silverman, believes the trial will begin on March 7,