Call it knock-on-wood NBA playoff pre-emptive wishful thinking, but Oregon U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden wants Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to guarantee that Trail Blazers' center Enes Kanter would be able to travel safely to the NBA finals in Toronto, should the Blazers and the Raptors meet in the big event.
Wyden sent a letter Tuesday, May 14, to Trudeau asking that the Canadian government "ensure Enes Kanter can travel safely to and from Canada, should the Portland Trail Blazers and the Toronto Raptors advance to the NBA Finals." The Trail Blazers play the reigning NBA champs Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals, starting Tuesday night in Oakland. The Raptors play the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Warriors are favored to win the Western Conference playoffs.
Wyden wrote that the request was necessary because the Turkish government had taken a keen interest in Kanter, a Turkish national who has been critical of Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian government. Erdogan's government retaliated against Kanter, Wyden wrote, by revoking his Turkish passport in 2017 and demanding that Interpol (the international police agency) issue a "red notice" (a global arrest warrant) for the NBA player.
In March, Kanter didn't go with the team to a regular-season game in Toronto because of the threat. "Since being drafted into the NBA in 2011, Mr. Kanter has used his public platform to criticize Turkey's President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan," Wyden wrote. "President Erdogan responded by revoking Mr. Kanter's passport in punishment and accusing him of supporting terrorists."
Wyden wrote that his staff was working with the Trump administration to make certain Kanter could travel safely to Canada in case the two teams meet in the finals. He implored Trudeau's government to "ignore any red notice against Mr. Kanter."
"Doing so would send a strong message to President Erdogan and any other government that seeks to use international organizations to silence critics or settle political scores," Wyden wrote.
This is the second time this year Wyden has asked government officials to block attempts to arrest and silence Kanter. In early March, Wyden wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asking that he tell the Turkish government to back off because it was "unacceptable for a U.S. ally."
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