The NBA released a memo last week reminding all 30 franchises that it’s a requirement for team personnel to stand during the national anthem. However, Turkish big man Enes Kanter has no qualms with bucking authority and facing consequences, whether he’s standing up for equality or kneeling.
Following his New York Knicks preseason debut, Kanter disclosed that he was in favor of kneeling during the anthem, regardless of whether he would have faced The Association’s wrath as a result. Instead, his new teammates chose to lock arms during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a show of unity.
“If they would’ve left it up to me, yes, I would’ve taken a knee,” Kanter said after scoring 17 points off the bench in a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, via the New York Daily News. “But as a team, we decided not to take a knee. The most important thing in America is equality and justice. If you don’t see these two things in America, I feel really bad, I feel really sad inside.”
“I was just talking with one of my teammates, saying, ‘If you’re going to do it, I’ll do it.’ I understand that the NBA just put out a statement saying nobody is taking a knee or whatever. But I’m really feeling bad for people out there that’s fighting for what’s right. I think what they’re fighting for is what’s right. I have problems with my own country. I feel like whatever we believe, fight for it. Because if you look at America, there’s freedom of speech, and you can protest peacefully.”
The next time somebody implies that someone voicing dissent within the United States should “find another country,” think about Kanter, who’s already paid a price for his activism internationally.
Kanter was detained at a Romanian airport in May. It was there he learned the Turkish government had branded him as a member of a terrorist organization in response to negative comments he made comparing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Adolf Hitler. In addition, Kanter’s activism and support of opposition leader Fethullah Gülen resulted in being left off the Turkish national team since 2015.
In response to their players’ decisions to link arms during the anthem, the Knicks public relations office released a toothless statement to temper potential backlash to their show of unity:
It was a perfectly crafted, yet spineless kumbaya statement, and Kanter’s resolute postgame comments speak for themselves. Given his status as a Muslim and green card holder on U.S. soil, his mentions will probably become a reservoir for jingoism and ultra-nationalism. However, he has had no problem standing up to President Erdoğan on Twitter, so we know he can stick up for himself.
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