NBA star Enes Kanter says one of his free basketball camps was canceled because the mosque hosting the event received threats from the Turkish consulate in New York. The mosque and the consulate denied that there was any intimidation.
Michael Balboni, spokesman for the Islamic Center of Long Island, told CNN that the Turkish consulate and others reached out to the center.
“A few members of the Turkish Community reached out saying, ‘you need to check this guy out,’” Balboni said.
He said the center decided to postpone the event because they “don’t take sides” and they thought it “would take some air out of the hot air balloon and put the focus back on the event being about kids and basketball.”
Kanter, who held Turkish citizenship until his passport was revoked in 2017, said in a statement that the consulate “threatened the mosque, sent out their goons and encouraged people in Turkey to call the mosque and leave threatening messages.” As a result, he said, the Islamic Center of Long Island decided to cancel the camp.
The Islamic Center of Long Island tweeted Thursday morning that the basketball clinic and another event were postponed “due to unforeseen circumstances.”
Alper Aktas, the Turkish consul general in New York, on Thursday denied Kanter’s accusations, calling them “lies, lies, and lies.” He had been informed that Kanter was organizing an event in Long Island because it’s in his jurisdiction, but “there was no threat and no intimidation,” he told CNN.
Kanter, who recently signed with the Boston Celtics, said he has offered 33 free camps in over 25 states this summer and over 300 children were planning to attend the camp in Long Island.
“I do these camps as part of charity and giving back to all communities, whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Christian or have no faith at all,” he said in his statement.
The acrimony between Kanter and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government goes back several years.
In 2017, the NBA player called Turkey’s leader “the Hitler of our century” over a crackdown that followed a failed 2016 coup attempt. Tens of thousands of people were imprisoned in Turkey after the failed coup.
Turkey has accused Kanter of being part of a terror organization because of his ties to US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erogan has accused of masterminding the coup attempt – a charge Gulen has denied.
Kanter has dismissed the allegations against him as absurd.
The consul general repeated those allegations Thursday. “Enes is not welcome in the Turkish-American community,” Aktas said. “Enes Kanter is a member of a terrorist organization and a religious cult. I just want the sports-loving community of Long Island to acknowledge those facts.”
Earlier this year, state news agency Anadolu reported that Turkey submitted an extradition request for Kanter, and requested an Interpol red notice for his arrest.