U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ensure Enes Kanter can travel safely to and from Canada, should the Portland Trail Blazers and the Toronto Raptors advance to the NBA Finals.
Wyden’s letter on behalf of Kanter, a Turkish national playing for the Trail Blazers, comes after Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has retaliated repeatedly against Kanter for using his freedom of expression to criticize his home country’s increasingly authoritarian government.
Among those retaliations were the Turkish government’s revocation of Kanter’s passport in 2017 and its demand that INTERPOL issue a “red notice” for Kanter. The threat of that red notice kept Kanter in the United States when the Trail Blazers traveled to Toronto for a regular-season game.
“Since being drafted into the NBA in 2011, Mr. Kanter has used his public platform to criticize Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan,” Wyden wrote. “President Erdogan responded by revoking Mr. Kanter’s passport in punishment and accusing him of supporting terrorists.”
”He also shamelessly asked Interpol to issue a red notice, threatening Mr. Kanter’s freedom should he venture outside the United States,” Wyden wrote. “As a result, Mr. Kanter did not travel to Canada for an NBA game in March 2019. If the Portland Trail Blazers and the Toronto Raptors both reach the NBA Finals, Mr. Kanter will again have to consider the security risks associated with work-related travel outside the United States. “
The Trail Blazers are in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, and the Toronto Raptors are in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I have instructed my staff to work with our administration to ensure that Mr. Kanter could travel safely to Canada and return unimpeded in the event of a Portland-Toronto NBA series,” Wyden wrote. “I urge your government to ensure the same with respect to Mr. Kanter’s ability to enter Canada, play in Canada and then return safely and expeditiously to the United States.
“I also urge you to state publicly that your government will ignore any red notice against Mr. Kanter,” Wyden added. “Doing so would send a strong message to President Erdogan and any other government that seeks to use international organizations to silence critics or settle political scores.”
In addition to today’s letter, Wyden also has urged U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to tell his Turkish counterparts that their retribution against Enes Kanter for his criticism of their autocratic rule is unacceptable for a U.S. ally.