Enes Kanter will not travel with the Knicks to London for their regular season game against the Wizards on Jan. 17 because, he says, his life would be in danger.
The 26-year-old center is a wanted criminal in Turkey because of his criticism against their president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and had his passport revoked by the Turkish government the last time he traveled overseas.
He fears "spies" could target him in London.
"I talked to the front office and they said I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish present," Kanter said after Friday's win over the Lakers. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there. So that's why I talked to the front office. I'm not going so I'm just going to stay here, just practice. It's pretty sad because it affects my career, my basketball. Because I want to be out there but just because of that one lunatic guy, that one maniac, I can't go out there and do my job. It's pretty sad."
When a follow-up was asked on how realistic it was that he thought he could be killed, Kanter said, "Easy. They have a lot of spies there. I can be killed easily. It would be a very ugly situation."
A Knicks spokesman clarified that Kanter would not travel because of visa issues.
Kanter, who has called Erdogan "the Hitler of our century," was nearly seized by Turkish intelligence in Indonesia during the spring of 2017 while on a world tour for his charitable foundation.
It was around this time when he had his passport stripped away and he was detained in a Romanian airport as Turkish prosecutors wanted to jail him for insulting the president.
Kanter was eventually released in Romania after receiving support from the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, the Oklahoma City Thunder -- his team at the time -- the NBA and players union.
He was traded to the Knicks three months after the incident and has not left North America since.
Kanter has been threatened with jail time by the Turkish government and his father was also indicted for being a "member of a terror group."
Kanter said at the time it was the Turkish government's way of punishing him.
The Knicks center is also a supporter and friend of Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdogan who has been living in exile in the United States since 1999 and accused by the Turkish president of orchestrating a failed coup attempt in 2016, although Gulen denies involvment.
Kanter has had a tumultuous season on the court, voicing his displeasure with the team for giving him a reduced bench role while the Knicks try to incorporate more playing time for their younger players.