Catching up with my accumulated hard copies of the Wall Street Journal over the weekend I came across Elizabeth Winkler’s excellent profile “Boston Celtic Enes Kanter Calls Foul on Repression in Turkey.” Subhead: “The outspoken NBA center has been labeled a ‘terrorist’ by his native country’s government for his association with an exiled cleric.” His family is trapped in Turkey and he has had to disavow them as they have had to disavow him. The man has quite a story to tell.
Here is the opening of Winkler’s article:
Enes Kanter, the Boston Celtics’ new center, isn’t the kind of athlete who is content to shut up and play. When LeBron James seemingly sought to placate China, chiding Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for a tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong, Mr. Kanter tweeted, “Wow dude,” accompanied by a hand-to-face emoji. For good measure, he added “SMH” (shaking my head) and a barfing emoji. Last week, Mr. Kanter took to Twitter again to lambaste Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) for voting against a bill to place economic sanctions on Turkey for its military offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria.
Mr. Kanter reserves the bulk of his censure, though, for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule over his native Turkey. He has called Mr. Erdogan the “Hitler of our century.” After practice one afternoon, Mr. Kanter begins rattling off statistics of judges and prosecutors jailed, journalists imprisoned, newspapers stifled and schools closed—all part of a government crackdown following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.
“Right now, 17,000 innocent women are in jail—with babies,” Mr. Kanter says. “Turkey is putting more journalists in jail than any other country. That one makes me so pissed. There’s no freedom of speech. Over 6,000 academics have lost their jobs. One of them was my dad.”
His sustained denunciation of Mr. Erdogan has made Mr. Kanter, 27, a wanted man….
That made me curious about Kanter’s take on our own Ilhan Omar. What did he have to say? Here it is.
What an absolute disappointment and shame that the only democrat who did NOT support the Turkish bill aiming to stop the killing of innocent people is @IlhanMN who seems like on #DictatorErdogan ‘s payroll working for his interests, but not for the American people and democracy!
— Enes Kanter (@EnesKanter) October 30, 2019
Omar’s proclivity toward Erdogan extends beyond the apologetics involved in her abstention on the resolution. It is worthy of note and indeed calls for some kind of explanation, though the Star Tribune limited itself to one quizzical article with a cameo by the local leader of the Muslim Brotherhood front group CAIR speaking up for Omar and an op-ed column by my friend Steve Hunegs (with Alejandro Baer and Tadeos Barseghyan) criticizing Omar for the tortured rationale she offered in support of her abstention. Still, however, some explanation is called for.