"There's a chance that I can get killed out there," Kanter told reporters Friday.
Enes Kanter will not join the team on their upcoming trip to London because of the ongoing tension between the Knicks center and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Kanter told reporters after New York's 119–112 win over the Lakers on Friday.
"I talked to the front office [and] sadly I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president," Kanter told reporters on Friday. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there."
He continued: "I'm not going so I'm just going to stay here to just practice here. It's pretty sad that all this stuff affects my career and basketball because I want to be out there and help my team win. But just because of that one lunatic guy—one maniac, one dictator—I can't even go out there and just do my job. It's pretty sad."
After news of his decision to skip the upcoming trip to London spread, Kanter tweeted a picture of an ESPN timeline of his recent history with the Turkish government.
"FREEDOM IS NOT FREE," he captioned the Tweet.
The 26-year-old is a native of Turkey and has been an outspoken critic of President Erdogan. In 2017, an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter after the then-Oklahoma City center was critical of Erdogan in a series of tweets posted in 2016. Kanter was also detained in Romania in May 2017 after the cancelation of his Turkish passport, which he also attributed to his open criticism of Erdogan’s government.
Enes and his father, Mehmet, support Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish spiritual leader that lives exiled in Pennslyvania. Mehmet was reportedly charged by the Turkish government with "membership in a terror group," last summer. Enes learned of his father's arrest from Turkish media reports.
The center said that he thought the Turkish government was trying to punish his father for his son's political beliefs.
A Knicks team official told ESPN that Kanter will not travel with the team because of a visa issue, but Kanter said it was because he did not feel safe making the trip.
When asked if he really believes that he could be killed if he travels to London, Kanter said, "Oh yeah, easy."
"They've got a lot of spies there," he said. "I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation."
Kanter has averaged 14.4 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game through 39 games played this season.
The Knicks (10–29) will play the Wizards in London on Jan. 17. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. ET.