Today is Enes Kanter’s 27th birthday, but because of the ongoing threats from Turkish president Reccip Tayyip Erdogan, the former Cat and current Portland Trail Blazer has to sleep with a panic button next to his bed.
By now, you should be familiar with Kanter’s contentious relationship with Erdogan, who wants him dead or imprisoned because he supports Fethullah Gulen, a cleric blamed for a failed coup back in 2016. Last year, a Turkish court indicted Kanter on terrorism charges and Erdogan had Interpol put him on “red notice,” which prohibits him from traveling safely outside of the United States. Add in death threats that come in regularly and life is stressful, to say the least. Kanter told ESPN the Magazine’s Tim Keown that after hearing his story during a meeting in February, the FBI gave him a panic button.
And he told them, as an addendum to a question that wasn’t asked, that he has no plans to stop his outspoken defiance against the leader of his home country.
“I have a voice,” he says, “and I’m trying to use it to be the voice for all the innocent people who don’t have one.”
He says the agents listened and wrote down Kanter’s words and asked a few more questions. Not once did they ask if he was taking the threats seriously, and before they left, they installed a device next to his bed. “If you’re uncomfortable with anything, just push that button,” they told him. “If you hear something you don’t like or have a reason to believe there’s a threat, push the button and someone will be here within minutes.”
On top of all this, the Trail Blazers are playing Golden State the Western Conference finals and Kanter’s fasting for Ramadan, which means no food or drink — even water — from sunrise to sunset.
Even if the Trail Blazers get swept tonight, I hope Enes eats all of the cake once the sun goes down. He deserves it.