I was in the New York Knicks locker room at Vivint Arena, two weeks ago, when Enes Kanter arrived after warming up.
“Could I talk to you a minute?” I said.
“No,” he said. Then he laughed. “Let’s do it over here.”
He was the same Kanter I remembered: open, thoughtful, likable. We talked about Jazz fans, Utah, his game, his favorite restaurant in Salt Lake. It wasn’t until a week later it occurred to me there was something else I should have asked: How is his family?
I don’t know his family. I just know it has been in peril, back in his homeland of Turkey.
Last May, Kanter was detained at a Romanian airport because, he says, he opposed Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. His passport was canceled in an attempt to return him so he could be jailed. An Associated Press story in December said prosecutors are pushing for a four-year prison sentence on charges of insulting Erdogan.
Kanter has said his father was jailed for a week in retribution for the NBA player’s criticism. Yet in 2016 he said his family had disowned him for opposing Erdogan.
He doesn’t know if his loved ones are safe, he conceivably could wind up in jail, his family is fractured, and I’m asking about booing?
I’ve often said Kanter doesn’t deserve the harsh criticism he gets from Jazz fans. But also, he shouldn’t be booed because of what has gone on in his homeland. There are weighty matters on his mind, yet he remains surprisingly upbeat. That’s something to applaud.