The good thing about all four of America’s major sports – the NBA, NFL, MLB and NHL – is that the market is so big that it attracts foreign athletes effectively making them international sports with world championships, even though every team is located in North America.
Outside of the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays and the seven Canadian NHL teams; every other team in the major sports are spread out through America.
But if the Toronto Raptors and the Portland Trail Blazers make unlikely comebacks against their respective opponents in the conference finals then this NBA star could spark a diplomatic crisis.
As of now, the Golden State Warriors are up 3-0 on the Portland Trail Blazers and the Milwaukee Bucks are up 2-1 against the Toronto Raptors. The Bucks-Raptors series certainly got complicated on Sunday night.
But when these NBA players travel to Toronto they have to go through customs just like they rest of us common folk.
However, Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter could trigger an international diplomatic crisis if his team and the Toronto Raptors faced off against each other in the NBA Finals.
The reasons for Kanter’s possible exclusion are linked to his criticism of the Turkish government.
Since 2017, Kanter has effectively been stateless, after the government in Ankara revoked his passport.
The 26-year-old refuses to travel outside the United States, fearing he may be targeted by the Turkish secret service or extradited to Turkey.
Then there was the Interpol arrest issued for Kanter because President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government deemed him a criminal because of his support for US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a coup in 2016.
Kanter’s support for Gulen has prompted Turkish authorities to seek an Interpol “red notice” or arrest warrant, meaning he could in theory be detained if he leaves the United States.
So that means he can’t actually travel to Canada if they faced off. It happened earlier this year too when Kanter was left behind when his Blazers traveled to Toronto. The team’s executives wouldn’t let him travel there and rightfully so.
Prosecutors in Turkey have demanded more than four years in jail for Kanter on charges of insulting Erdogan, whom the player has in the past compared to Adolf Hitler.
Kanter’s family in Turkey meanwhile has publicly distanced themselves from the player. In a letter published by the Turkish newspaper Sabah, Kanter’s father, Mehmet, who was arrested in 2017 by authorities in Turkey, disowned his son.
Kanter tweeted once “I apologize to our president and the Turkish people for the shame of having such a child.”
Turkish television has refused to broadcast NBA games involving Kanter, meaning that the ongoing series with Golden State is off the air.
Kanter, who has regularly criticised Erdogan on Twitter, has condemned his treatment in comments to journalists in the United States.
He told the Washington Post, “All these NBA fans, they want to watch the Western Conference finals, but they can’t all because of me. It’s funny and crazy. (The Turkish government) is afraid of an NBA player. I’m not a politician. It’s not my job, but everyone is so scared of Erdogan that I have to step up and speak out for freedom and human rights. It shows it’s a dictatorship in Turkey.”