Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter, after being denied entry to Romania and having his passport “canceled,” has been permitted to leave the country and is in London, the NBA told The New York Times on Saturday.
A league source confirmed to ESPN that the NBA worked with the State Department to help get Kanter to London and that the next step was to get him back to the United States.
“Today at around 1 p.m. local time an individual arrived from Frankfurt,” Romanian border police spokesman Fabian Badila told the Times. “My colleagues established that his travel documents weren’t valid, that they had been canceled by his home country, so he wasn’t allowed to enter the country.
“At around 5 p.m., he left the airport on a flight to London,” Badila added. “While he was at the airport he wasn’t detained or locked up, he was allowed to wander around, but he couldn’t enter the country.”
Kanter, who is on a world tour doing charity events for his Light Foundation, tweeted a video earlier Saturday in which he said he had been detained at a Romanian airport, was being held by officials and that his passport had been canceled by the Turkish embassy.
“They’ve been holding us here for hours, by these two police (officers),” Kanter, who turned 25 on Saturday, said in the video. “The reason behind it is just, of course, my political views and the guy who did it is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey.”
He also tweeted pictures of himself posing with officials at the airport.
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) May 20, 2017
Prior to Kanter leaving Romania, National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts told the Sports Business Journal that the union was “in conversations with the State Department as well as the league” regarding Kanter.
Kanter has been an outspoken critic of Erdogan, which has caused tensions in his home country as one of the most famous professional athletes from Turkey. Kanter is a known supporter of Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen is an Islamic leader and the face of the Gulen Movement. He lives in Pennsylvania after being exiled for more than 15 years, and directly opposes Erdogan’s regime. Erdogan blamed Gulen and his supporters for an attempted coup on the Turkish government last July.
After a letter published by his father last summer in a Turkish newspaper, Kanter announced he had been disowned by his family because of his political views.
“Today I lost my mother, father, brothers and sisters, my family and all my relatives,” Enes Kanter wrote in the statement, which was translated to English. “My own father asked me to change my surname. My mother, who has given me life, disowned me. My brothers and sisters, with which we have grown together, ignore me.”
During a visit to the White House last week, Erdogan was again caught in controversy as some of his security detail fought with protesters.
“He’s attacked people in Washington. He’s a bad, bad man,” Kanter said in the video early Saturday. “He is a dictator, and he’s the Hitler of our century.”
In 2016, Kanter, after being outspoken against Erdogan’s government following a terrorist bombing in Turkey’s capital of Ankara two months earlier, said he received death threats after a failed military coup to overthrow Erdogan.
In June 2015, Kanter said he was left off of Turkey’s national team for Eurobasket 2015 because of his politics. National team coach Ergin Ataman said at the time that the decision was not political.
According to Kanter’s website, the Light Foundation fosters awareness and provides assistance for children’s development through “education, poverty alleviation and social harmony.”
ESPN’s Royce Young contributed to this report.