Kanter was disowned by his father last year for his public support for Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania, who was blamed by Erdogan for being behind a failed coup attempt in 2016. “I apologize to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son,” Mehmet Kanter wrote in a pro-government newspaper last summer.
In the wake of that attempt, with which Gulen has denied any involvement, the Turkish government engaged in a violent crackdown. Kanter has claimed that Erdogan himself faked the coup as a pretext for establishing authoritarian rule over Turkey and that the government has imprisoned and tortured thousands of innocent civilians, journalists and opposition figures.
Kanter himself reportedly had an arrest warrant issued for him by a Turkish court, as part of an official investigation into his links to Gulen, a probe that led to the detainment of his father. Last month, Kanter held a news conference in New York at which he described his “scary” experience on a multi-country trip on behalf of his charitable foundation.
He said he fled Indonesia after he heard Turkish authorities were looking for him, only to be held up in Romania because Turkey had revoked his passport. Eventually, with the help of the Thunder, the Department of Homeland Security and both Oklahoma senators, he was able to make it back to the United States, where he told reporters, “It was scary because there was a chance they might send me back to Turkey.
“And if they send me back to Turkey, probably you guys wouldn’t hear a word from me the second day. It would have definitely gotten really ugly.”
“I hope the whole world is watching this and all the human rights [groups],” Kanter said last month. “I want people to do something about it because there are a lot of people waiting for help in jail in Turkey, getting kidnapped, murdered, tortured, raped.”
On Tuesday, Kanter said on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that he thought his father would be “thrown in jail [for] many years, just because he’s my dad.” He added, “If you look at what’s going on in Turkey right now, all they’re trying to do is make me stop talking. They either want to make me stop talking, or they want me to go back to Turkey, where they will free my dad and arrest me.”