Kanter On Missing The Game In Toronto, Feeling 'Homeless,' Meeting Politicians and Death Threats
After not traveling with the team to Toronto for Friday's 119-117 loss to the Raptors due to visa issues, Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter talks about his emotions watching the game back in the United States, being approached by people about citizenship status, meeting with American politicians to discuss the current situation in Turkey, support from the team and whether he fears for his safety in the United States.
What did you end up doing during the game in Toronto?
Enes Kanter: "Actually, two assistant coaches stay with me and we worked out the last two days. So went to a fish restaurant, seafood restaurant and we just watched the game there."
What were your emotions watching the game?
Enes Kanter: "It’s tough. This is the second time it happened this year, of course the first time was in London when I was with Knicks. This is the second time. It’s very tough because I want to be known with my basketball game but all the stuff happens, when it’s effecting my career, it’s definitely a pretty sad situation. But like I said, I think what I’m doing is way bigger than basketball and when I saw Coach comment about how much he supported me, it just definitely meant a lot to me."
Do you get emotional watching a game like that? Do you get mad? Sad?
Enes Kanter: "First, I get emotional because I can’t be there physically with my teammates. But second, I get mad at all the situation happening in Turkey and then later on, if we lose, then I get very sad. I was like ‘I couldn’t be there helping my brothers out there.’ I get mixed feelings."
With the way the game played out, being close, it probably felt like you could have helped if you had been there.
Enes Kanter: "They play unbelievable. I think they fight back, they didn’t let go is the most important thing. They played hard, they played smart and they didn’t just fall apart when they were down by nine, ten."
Assistant coach Jim Moran said people at the restaurant came up and asked "Is that the guy who can’t leave the country?" That’s how they know you.
Enes Kanter: "It’s not just in the restaurant. Airports, when we’re practicing, people come up and say ‘He’s the man without a country.’ It feels so bad because I kind of feel, like, homeless.
"It’s amazing to see the Blazers organization just open their arms. They accept me as a part of their family, so I think it’s been an awesome experience with those guys because I don’t look at them as my teammates, I look at them as my brothers. I think they’ve been very supportive and it means a lot to me."
You’ve said the goal is to raise awareness and if random people know your story, you’re raising awareness.
Enes Kanter: "Definitely. Even today, when we were in the plane and this random guy said ‘I’m from Puerto Rico and just keep doing what you’re doing.’ I was like, this is amazing. It felt amazing because that shows how I am trying to create awareness, and it’s working. Definitely just means a lot to me just to say I’m Turkish… Americans coming up to me saying ‘What you’re doing is so important, it’s bigger than basketball, so keep your head up and keep doing what you’re doing, we’re a supporter of you.’ That definitely gives me a lot of hope."
What did you talk to Joe Kennedy about and how did that come about?
Enes Kanter: "I went there to talk about how the Turkish government and how President Erdogan using his power, abusing human rights in Turkey, using his power to abuse Red Notice system on Interpol. Not just me, my story is just one, there are thousands and thousands of people out there, their stories are way worse than mine because they are not an NBA player. People know my story because I play in the NBA but, like I said, lots of people out there, their stories way worse than mine.
"I sit down and talk to him. The amazing thing is whenever I talk to senator or congressman, they stop me in the middle. They say ‘Don’t worry about it, we already know the story.’ And it just give me so much hope and it made me so happy that people really know what’s going on in Turkey. When they told me ‘Don’t worr
y about it, we read your story every day, we follow what’s going on with your situation in Turkey’ it definitely warms my heart."
But do any of them tell you what they’re going to do about it?
Enes Kanter: "They said, number one, there are rules and laws in America, so I don’t think Turkish government can extradite me back to Turkey because I don’t even have a parking ticket in the US. That’s true, but the second thing is, they say whatever we can help, reach out to us and we will do everything to help you out because what you’re doing, you’re doing for human rights."
Do you worry about your personal safety in America?
Enes Kanter: "A lot of people ask me that question. Where ever I go, I always have someone with me. The only place I go alone is the bathroom… Only place I go alone is bathroom because I have been getting, especially after the London game, I have been getting every day, tens, hundred death threats, especially on social media. People are saying ‘Are you gonna take (threats) serious?’ I mean, of course, those are death threats, you’ve got to take them serious. But I think right now, the most important thing is we have 20 games left in the regular season, just focus on what I need to focus on. Focus on my team, go out there and do the best we can to do far in the playoffs."