Around the holiday season, almost everyone is traveling. Enes Kanter‘s travel arrangements, however, are a little different. The Boston Celtics center will be heading abroad for business rather than pleasure. His club heads north of the border to take part in Christmas Day matinee against the Toronto Raptors.
Wednesday’s trip, though, will take on added significance for Kanter. After refusing to travel abroad due to personal safety concerns, the Boston big man will be triumphantly returning to Canada.
Enes Kanter’s travel concerns
While the vast majority of NBA games take place in the United States, teams do have to travel abroad, either for global games or meetings with the Toronto Raptors. In the past, however, Enes Kanter hasn’t crossed the border.
The center is politically active and frequently speaks out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who he has previously called “the Hitler of our century.” Unfortunately, those beliefs have made life challenging for the center. Turkey requested that INTERPOL issue “Red Notice” for Kanter. If the notice was approved, it means that authorities in other nations would know a warrant existed for the center’s arrest; in theory, any member government could detain and extradite him.
That reality means Kanter has previously avoided leaving the United States. After Turkey canceled his passport, the center was detained in a Romanian airport; he didn’t play in Toronto last season and declined to travel to London when he was a member of the New York Knicks.
Canada comes through for Enes Kanter
On Monday morning, Enes Kanter’s phone rang while he was doing an interview with MSNBC. A Canadian official was calling with some good news. After months of collaboration with American and Canadian authorities, the Celtics center received confirmation that he could safely travel to Toronto to play on Christmas Day.
“For me, there is nothing I would rather do than play basketball. It’s my lifelong passion and my escape,” Kanter wrote in an op-ed that ran in The Globe and Mail. “Every time I go to a new city to play, I am humbled and inspired by my amazing fans, who keep encouraging me to be who I am. But I haven’t been able to go to cities outside the United States. I’ve had to leave my team behind, which is hard for someone like me, who values camaraderie and team solidarity as much as I do. The reason: I speak out against the Turkish state.”
“I also want to thank Canada for another reason,” the Boston big man continued. “I want to thank Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government, U.S. and Canadian law enforcement, U.S. Senator Ed Markey, the Celtics, the NBA and my managers for working diligently to make my Christmas game against the Raptors possible and ensuring my safety there. And, on Christmas Day, I will play in my first game as a Celtic outside the U.S. when I take the court against the Raptors.”
Looking for a win, both on and off the court
While injuries have plagued both teams, Enes Kanter and the Boston Celtics should hold a slight edge on Christmas Day; the Raptors have been a great story this season, but playing without Pascal Siakam will be a stiff challenge. Regardless of what happens on the court, however, the center has secured a more important victory. Kanter has faced plenty of pressure but did not give in. On Wednesday, he’ll proudly take the court in a country that welcomed thousands of Turkish refugees; that alone will make a massive statement.
“As Martin Luther King Jr. timelessly observed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Standing up for something we believe in makes us better humans,” Kanter wrote at the end of his op-ed. “And I couldn’t be happier that these people have worked together to stand up to Turkey’s injustice and that I will finally get to join my team and do what I do best: play basketball.”