New York Knicks center Enes Kanter said in an interview with Michael Pina of Vice Sports that Nike won't sign him due to his public criticism of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan and the ongoing backlash from those comments:
"The emotional toll is obvious, but Kanter's sacrifice is evident elsewhere. He can't leave North America and hasn't been able to secure any endorsement deals. Nike, the same company that championed Colin Kaepernick's controversial remonstration by putting him on the frontlines of a recent ad campaign, now refuses to sign Kanter. 'I talked to Nike and they said, 'We want to give Enes a contract. We're watching him. But if we give him a contract they will shut down every store in Turkey, so we cannot give him a contract,' he says. 'I'm an NBA player with no shoe deal. No endorsement deal. And I play in New York!'"
Kanter, 26, has not hidden his disdain for Erdogan or his corrupt regime. In May 2017, Kanter wrote a post for The Players' Tribune detailing how he escaped from Indonesia while running a basketball camp after Indonesian officials were contacted and told Kanter was a "dangerous man" by the Turkish government. Kanter escaped to Bucharest, Romania, only to be detained after his passport was canceled by the Turkish government.
He eventually returned to the United States.
"The biggest threat to Erdogan is free speech, so he will punish anyone who speaks up or thinks for himself," Kanter wrote at the time.
He added: "We don't know everything that is happening inside Turkey, but we do know some facts. Newspapers and media have been restricted. Academics have been fired. Peaceful protesting is not allowed. Many people have been imprisoned without any real charges. There are reports of torture and rape and worse."
Enes Kanter @Enes_Kanter
I will continue to keep fighting for Human Rights and Freedom of Speech Justice and Democracy above all.I will stand for what I believe in.All I’m doing is trying to be voice of innocent people Keep my family,innocent people in your prayers 🙏 #DictatorErdogan 🇹🇷 @RT_Erdogan https://t.co/i7kK3mwKND
As Pina noted, Kanter has become public enemy No. 2, behind only Fethullah Gulen, who allegedly led a failed coup against Ergodan's government (which he denies) and now lives in exile in the United States. There is a warrant for Kanter's arrest in Turkey due to his outspoken criticisms of the Turkish government, and his father is facing prison time after being indicted for allegedly being a member of a terrorist group.
Kanter has maintained that his father was arrested solely to punish the Knicks center for being outspoken against Ergodan and that the charges against his father are bogus.