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Celtics' Enes Kanter to Play vs. Raptors After Fears over Safety Were Resolved

Megan ArmstrongAnalyst IIIDecember 24, 2019

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 18: Enes Kanter #11 of the Boston Celtics looks on during the game against the Dallas Mavericks on December 18, 2019 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Glenn James/Getty Images

Enes Kanter will play on Christmas Day.

The Boston Celtics center announced that he will suit up with his teammates when they take on the defending champion Raptors in Toronto on Wednesday. It was part of a lengthy open letter published by the Globe and Mail:

"I also want to thank Canada for another reason. 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."

Kanter has previously stayed behind in the states when his team travels outside of the country because of his ongoing public criticism of his native Turkish government and the subsequent threats made against him.

The 27-year-old had been detained in Romania in May 2017, then a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder, and cited Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for canceling his passport because of his political views.

On Jan. 9, Kanter told CNN's Aimee Lewis and Hala Gorani that he had "been getting hundreds and hundreds (of) death threats almost every day." At the time, Kanter was a member of the New York Knicks and had decided not to travel with them to play against the Washington Wizards at London's O2 Arena.

Kanter told reporters on Jan. 4 the reasoning behind his decision to stay behind:

"Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president. There's a chance that I can get killed out there. So that's why I talked to the [Knicks'] front office. I'm not going. It's pretty sad that just all this stuff affects my career and basketball, because I want to be out there helping my team win. But just because of that one lunatic guy, one maniac or dictator, I can't even go out there and just do my job. So it's pretty sad.

[...]

"They've got a lot of spies there. I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation."

The 2011 third overall pick most recently sat out a game in Toronto while playing for the Portland Trail Blazers last season because he feared retaliation from the Turkish government.

Kanter signed with the Celtics on a two-year contract this summer. He's averaging 7.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists through 20 games (three starts) for 20-7 Boston.

Boston and Toronto will tip at noon ET from Scotiabank Arena on ESPN.