Turkey will not televise the Western Conference finals between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers because of criticism of its government by Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter, a native of that country.
“I can say clearly that we will not be broadcasting the Warriors-Blazers series,” S Sport commentator Omer Sarac told Reuters. “Furthermore, if Portland makes it to the finals, that will not be broadcast either … This situation is not about us, but it is what it is.”
Kanter has been estranged from his homeland for at least two years and is a longtime critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kanter has called himself an ally of U.S-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is an Erdogan enemy and was accused of being part of a failed coup attempt in 2016.
Erdogan has fashioned Turkey’s political system into one of paramount presidential power, and since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, has waged a merciless campaign to silence critics.
On March 31, his Justice and Development Party lost the races for mayor of Istanbul and Ankara.
The defeat stung Ergogan, who was mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s; the city remains his political base.
Soon thereafter, the Higher Election Council responded to ruling party pressure and scrapped the outcome and called for a fresh Istanbul contest on June 23.
The opposition, the Republican People’s Party, denounced the move, saying its election victory had been stolen.
Earlier this month, the NBA terminated a local vendor who ran the NBA’s Turkish-centric Twitter account for failing to mention Kanter’s efforts in Portland’s Game 2 win over Denver in the Western Conference semifinals.
After that episode, NBA deputy commissioner and chief operating officer Mark Tatum said, “Fans in Turkey can watch all playoff games featuring Enes Kanter and the Portland Trail Blazers on NBA League Pass and NBA TV International.”
Kanter’s issue with Turkey dates back to 2017 when the government canceled his passport and sought an arrest warrant.
Kanter has a green card, but because of the issues with his safety and his passport, he did not travel to London in January when he was with the Knicks, or to Toronto in February as a member of the Blazers.