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NBA commissioner supports Enes Kanter skipping game in London

New York Knicks' centre says he cannot attend game in London out of fear of being extradited back to Turkey
Kanter has been outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his human rights record (Reuters)

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed support for Turkish player Enes Kanter's decision to skip the New York Knicks' game against the Washington Wizards in London over safety fears that he may be extradited back to Turkey.

"I absolutely understand his reasoning why he elected not to come. Certainly, there wasn’t a suggestion to the league not to come on this trip. We live in a world, these are really significant issues that he’s dealing with," Silver told reporters at the British O2 Arena on Thursday.

"I recognise for the NBA that by virtue of a fact we’re a global business, we have to pay attention to these issues,” he added.

The 26-year-old centre has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his human rights record.

On Wednesday, Kanter urged US President Donald Trump to act on Turkey’s human rights abuses.

“I feel like Trump definitely should talk about these issues with what’s going on in Turkey because there are lots of reports of people getting kidnapped, getting tortured in jail, getting killed,” Kanter told Reuters news agency in New York City on Wednesday.

Turkish authorities have jailed some 77,000 people pending trial since a coup attempt in 2016, while 150,000 state employees including teachers, judges and soldiers have been suspended or dismissed in a crackdown on alleged supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish dissident who has been accused of orchestrating an attempted coup. Gulen denies the accusation.

Turkey says the scale of the crackdown is necessitated by the threat from Gulen’s network. About 250 people were killed in the failed putsch when rogue soldiers commandeered warplanes, tanks and helicopters in a bid to seize power.

Death and extradition threats

Kanter said he had been receiving death threats because of his support for Gulen. 

Turkey wants to detain Kanter for having ties to a “terrorist organisation,” which Kanter denies.

Istanbul's state prosecutor has sought an Interpol "red notice" to detain Kanter and requested his extradition, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office said on Thursday.

Interpol declined to comment.

Turkish prosecutors seek extradition of NBA player Enes Kanter

An unidentified NBA source told the New York Post on Thursday that the league has no plans to tell Kanter to tone down his language towards Erdogan.

Kanter holds a US green card that allows him to live and work in the country on a permanent basis.

Kanter previously said he decided to miss his team's regular-season game in London because of fear he may be harmed by Erdogan supporters.

Speaking to BBC's Newsbeat on Thursday he said: "The Turkish government put a red notice under my name with Interpol when my team was on the flight, still in the air," he said.

"So if I went to London, as soon as I left the plane they would send me back to Turkey."

Silver said he sympathised with the player's predicament.

"My stance is I think it is very unfortunate that Enes is not here, but I absolutely understand why he elected not to come," he said.