Image Credit: Getty Images
Kanter, now a member of the Boston Celtics, has had bad blood with the current Turkish government for years. He’s been an outspoken critic of the Turkish government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and in return, they have deemed him a terrorist. It’s a situation that has led to Kanter being stuck in Romania after Turkey cancelled his passport and Kanter fearing for his life and refusing to fly with the Knicks to play the Wizards in London.
This weekend, Kanter was scheduled to hold a basketball camp for kids at the Islamic Center of Long Island, but after politics got involved, the event was cancelled and accusations flew.
Kanter accused the Turkish consulate in New York of bullying, saying they “threatened the mosque, sent out their goons and encouraged people in Turkey to call the mosque and leave threatening messages.” The consulate denied this, stating that the Celtics center was lying and that the Center needed to be made aware of him because he was part of a terrorist organization.
“Enes is not welcome in the Turkish-American community,” said Alper Aktas, the Turkish consulate general of New York. “Enes Kanter is a member of a terrorist organization and a religious cult. I just want the sports-loving community of Long Island to acknowledge those facts.”
Well after much banter, Kanter, his team and the Long Island community worked their collective magic and the camp went down on Sunday at the Island Garden in West Hempstead, NY, largely in part to Long Island congresswoman Kathleen Rice.
“The Islamic Center of Long Island is a wonderful local organization that does incredible work in our community,” said Rice said in a statement emailed to the Daily News. “I’m disappointed that the Turkish Consulate politicized this event, which was meant for our kids.
“I’m glad I could help Enes find a new location for his camp and I look forward to supporting his advocacy against President (Recep) Erdogan’s authoritarianism.”
So instead of adult politics and intimidation ruining the day, more than 200 boys and girls of all faiths, colors and cultures got to play a sport that they love, and learn from a man who fights for human rights every day.
“These kids love basketball, and they love Enes Kanter,” said Jim Fox, the owner of Island Garden. “Kids love the NBA and they love him. I’m glad we could host it.”
So were all parents and participants, as basketball is for everyone.
“Doing something like this is great,” said parent Howard Schneiderman to Newsday. “He is actively engaging with every single kid out there.”
“We’re very happy it got to happen,” said parent Nicole Cafaro. “People in the community got together and made it happen, and to stand up to bullying.”
“It’s great to have a successful Muslim as a role model,” said 16-year-old Nazo Khashang. “I’m glad we came to see him.”
And it’s even better to know that dangerous politics couldn’t deter such as great event, or detract from Kanter’s continual effort to give back to a country which helped him and which he loves.