NBA (National Basketball Association)

Enes Kanter slams ‘scared little rats’ as NBA leaves Erdogan critic off list of best Turkish players

  • Kanter omitted from NBA Instagram post celebrating Turkish basketball stars
  • NBA apologises after New York Knicks star says ‘stop being afraid of a dictator’
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 2:12pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 10:22pm

New York Knicks star Enes Kanter called the NBA “scared little rats” after he was left off a promotional graphic celebrating the best Turkish basketball talent.

The image, posted on NBA Europe’s Instagram account, featured three Turkish players other than Kanter, and asked fans to choose which has had the best season so far.

But Kanter is easily the most-high profile player from his country in the NBA and felt his omission was because of his public criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been accused of human rights abuses.

“Wow! Scared to put my name up there,” Kanter wrote on Twitter alongside a screen capture of the original Instagram post. “U scared little rats. Turks #DictatorErdogan affects [sic].”

“The Association is supposed to stand up for inclusion and human rights,” the 26-year-old added in another tweet.

“Stop [being] freaking scared of a #Dictator and do what is right. I hope you learned from this lesson.”

NBA Europe’s Instagram account later apologised and updated the graphic to feature a picture of Kanter in another post, appearing to claim Kanter’s exclusion was simply an error on their part.

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“A Must Correction: Of course, Enes Kanter should be included. Apologies. Turnover, @NBAEurope,” the account said.

Kanter tweeted “apology accepted” after the correction, but not everyone on social media was in such a forgiving mood.

As one user pointed out, the header photo of the official NBA Turkey account on Twitter features the same three players as the NBA Europe’s original Instagram photo – Cedi Osman of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ersan Ilyasova of the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Philadelphia 76ers’ Furkan Korkmaz – but not Kanter.

The 2.1-metre tall centre, who began his career with Fenerbahce in Turkey before being picked third in the 2011 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz, was named a fugitive in his home country last year with an arrest warrant issued because of his support for US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

His passport was also revoked by Turkish authorities, but Kanter holds a US green card that allows him to permanently live and work in the country.

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Ankara has accused Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, of orchestrating an attempted coup against Erdogan’s government in July 2016.

A Turkish prosecutor asked for Kanter to be jailed for up to four years for using Twitter to “defame and deride” Erdogan.

Kanter had called Erdogan the “Hitler of our century” at a news conference in the US after he was detained in Romania last May because of his passport situation.

“I have said less than that honourless [man] deserves. Add another 4 years for me master,” he said in a tweet.

Turkish state media published a handwritten letter signed by Kanter’s father, Mehmet, in which he disowned his son and accused him of being “hypnotised” by Gulen.

Earlier this summer footballer Mesut Ozil, who is of Turkish descent, quit the Germany national team over what he called “racist” treatment by fans and authorities after a photo op with Erdogan.

The Arsenal star was pictured smiling as he held up an Arsenal shirt with Erdogan at the Turkish embassy in London, soon before the World Cup where Ozil was booed by German fans.

Former footballer Hakan Sukur, who led Turkey to the 2002 World Cup semi-final, also lives in exile after fleeing the country in 2015.

Erdogan officiated the striker’s 1995 wedding, where Gulen was also a guest, but Sukur was found guilty in 2016 of insulting the president in a tweet.