Knicks center Enes Kanter was forced to miss a London game against the Washington Wizards on Thursday after Turkish state media reported prosecutors had issued an international arrest warrant for the basketball player.
“I want to play with my team so bad,” Kanter told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin.
“Until the London game I have not skipped a single game,” he added.
Turkey has accused Kanter of being part of a terror organization because of his ties to Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of masterminding a failed 2016 military coup against him, a charge Gulen has denied.
Kanter has dismissed the allegations against him as absurd. Responding to news of the arrest warrant on Wednesday, he tweeted: “Turkish Government can NOT present any single piece of evidence of my wrongdoing. I don’t even have a parking ticket in the US (True). I have always been a law-abiding resident.”
However, Kanter is a staunch critic of Erdogan’s government. In 2017 he called Turkey’s leader “the Hitler of our century” over a crackdown that followed the 2016 failed coup. More than 50,000 people have been imprisoned in Turkey since.
“I have done nothing wrong,” Kanter says. “All I did is try to be the voice of all the innocent people.”
His criticism has come at a price.
Kanter says he hasn’t spoken to his family since he fled Turkey in 2015 and fears for his life if he steps outside the United States.
In 2016, his family publicly disowned him because of his political stances, a move he believes they made to protect themselves.
He says police raided his family’s house in Turkey, taking all their electronics, such as phones and laptops, as they searched for evidence of communication with him.
“If they were to see any little text message like ‘hi mum,’ any little missed call … they would all be in jail,” he explains.
“I forgot their voices, what they look like. … It’s killing my heart.”
His Turkish passport was revoked in 2017. He has a green card and is hoping to become a US citizen in the next two years.
Asked if it’s all worth it, he says, “I play in the NBA and I have a big platform so I’m using my platform.”
“I have to do this for the innocent people and all the journalists in jail.”
Interpol did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment as to whether it had received an extradition and red notice request from Turkey. According to Interpol’s website, no red notice has been issued for Kanter.