Turkish basketball star Enes Kanter is playing in the NBA Western Conference finals for the second time in his career. But the US series will not be widely televised in Turkey, where he is accused of terrorist links.
Turkish broadcaster S Sport, the main broadcaster for NBA games in Turkey, said Tuesday it will not show the NBA's Western Conference Finals between the defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Portland center Enes Kanter, a Swiss-born Turkish basketball player, is an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkish broadcasters have ignored Kanter's games since he was indicted by a Turkish court last year.
"I can say clearly that we will not be broadcasting the Warriors-Blazers series," S Sport commentator Omer Sarac told the Reuters news agency. "Furthermore, if Portland makes it to the finals, [that] will not be broadcast either.
Kanter posted a short message on Twitter in response: "Banned by the dictator but not forgotten."
Fans in Turkey can still see the games through a paid NBA TV cable subscription or the NBA League Pass online service.
Basketball is a popular sport in Turkey, and the country's Basketball Super League is one of the best basketball leagues in Europe.
Accused of terrorist links
After a 2016 failed coup attempt in Turkey, Kanter publicly criticized Erdogan on Twitter, calling the Turkish president "the Hitler of our century." Soon after, his father and his family disowned him due to his political views and his support for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for the coup attempt.
In 2017, Kanter's Turkish passport was canceled by the Turkish Embassy, and the government issued an arrest warrant for him on the accusation that he had terrorist links.
In January, he declined to travel with the New York Knicks, his team at the time, to London amid reports that Turkish prosecutors were seeking an arrest warrant and an extradition request for the Turkish center. After he joined the Portland Trail Blazers, he did not travel to Canada in March, where the Blazers were playing the Toronto Raptors in a regular season game, for similar reasons.
If Portland manages to beat the Golden State Warriors and reach the NBA Finals, the Trail Blazers could wind up facing the Canadian basketball team again. With that prospect in the cards, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden penned a letter on Tuesday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking for Kanter's safe passage for the potential playoff series.
The letter was posted by Kanter on his Twitter account.