It’s difficult to keep even the smallest hint of politics out of any topic. There’s the example of Turkish NBA player Enes Kanter, center for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even as murmurs go on about the possibility that the Thunder would trade him off, Kanter is in the middle of another conflict. He is an outspoken critic of current Turkish President Recep Erdogan. He also supports Erdogan’s main dissenter, the imam Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Such is his fervor in this political stance that his Twitter page is inaccessible in Turkey and his own family has verbally disowned him.

Recent events have highlighted the animosity Erdogan’s regime feels for the NBA import when it caused trouble for Kanter while he was traveling in Europe.

Stranded at the airport

Enes Kanter’s beef with Turkey’s President Erdogan came to a head Saturday May 20, when the NBA player was in Romania at the capital city of Bucharest as a stop on a tour for his charitable foundation. He had arrived in Bucharest from Frankfurt, Germany at 1:00 p.m Saturday. While waiting for a flight to his next destination at the airport, the 25-year-old Kanter was informed by authorities that his Turkish-issued passport and other travel documents had been canceled. He quickly posted a video on his Twitter explaining his situation.

When the tweet went viral, it was initially mistaken by readers that Kanter had been held at the airport by Romanian border police; the Thunder center actually focused on a couple of them in his tweet’s video. Fortunately border police spokesman Fabian Badila later clarified Kanter’s situation, saying that he was not detained at all and had the freedom to go around the airport terminal.

This was confirmed by the NBA player himself when he took a selfie with the same officers he had pointed out earlier. But Badila also explained that Romanian law prevented Kanter from crossing the borders (ie. Leaving the country) without valid travel documents, the same documents canceled by the government of Turkey.

Kanter and Erdogan

In response to Enes Kanter’s allegation that his predicament in Romania was done by President Erdogan in retaliation for his political views, the Turkish state media network Anadolu reiterated the OKC center’s public support for Fethullah Gulen. No comment from Erdogan’s government was cited however. Kanter was later allowed to leave for London, and returned to the US by Sunday May 21.

While Erdogan has been upset over tacit US support for Kurdish insurgents in Turkey, he still was congenial enough to have made a state visit to Washington DC.

During his time with President Donald Trump, violent protests broke out at the Turkish embassy over Erdogan’s strongman stance since the 2016 coup attempt. He believes the exiled Gulen, whom Kanter sympathizes with, had spurred the coup to happen.