NBA fans in Turkey will not be able to watch the Western Conference Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers on one of the country’s major television networks because Enes Kanter plays for Portland.
"I can say clearly that we will not be broadcasting the Warriors-Blazers series," S Sport commentator Omer Sarac told Reuters. "Furthermore, if Portland makes it to the finals, (that) will not be broadcast either ... This situation is not about us, but it is what it is."
S Sport is Turkey’s primary broadcaster for NBA games, although TMZ Sports cited a representative for the league who said fans can still watch on NBA TV and online on NBA League Pass.
Reuters explained Turkey officials have demanded the United States extradite Kanter, who has publicly criticized Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. The country charged him with belonging to an armed terrorist group, although the Portland big man denied the allegations.
This comes after Kanter responded to a Denver Nuggets fan heckling him during the second round of the NBA playoffs because he couldn’t go back to his home country:
Enes Kanter @Enes_Kanter
I wish I could go back to Turkey to see Family 😔 But I chose to support Democracy, Freedom and Human rights, I am grateful for most Americans supporting that right. @nuggets take control of your fans. This is hurtful 💔 Be grateful for the Democracy and Freedom we have here. https://t.co/SMGu9j3qc4
Kanter also pointed out the NBA’s Turkish Twitter account did not include him in a tweet summarizing a Portland victory:
Enes Kanter @Enes_Kanter
What a messed up country lead by #TurkishDictator @RTErdogan Only Turkish player out here tonight, and the official @NBA for Turkey @NBAturkiye is censoring me. They dont show blazers games in Turkey. The government controls people,this a problem. How can official NBA allow this https://t.co/Zvny0NwF8C
"The National Basketball Players Association fully supports our players using their platforms to stand up for their beliefs and the principles they support," the NBPA said in a statement after Kanter’s tweets, per Royce Young of ESPN.com. "We stand with Enes and, as with all of our players, will work to ensure that he is treated fairly and with respect."
Young also noted the NBA said it ended its relationship with NBA Turkey Twitter, which it said was operated by a local vendor.
Young provided additional context to the situation, pointing out the Turkish government cancelled Kanter’s passport and sought his arrest in 2017. The government views Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Kanter supports, as the leader of a terrorist organization.
He wrote an essay for the Washington Post in January explaining he didn’t travel overseas because "Erdogan’s arms are long. He hunts down anyone who opposes him. ... Anyone who speaks out against him is a target. I am definitely a target. And Erdogan wants me back in Turkey where he can silence me."