At the first meeting of the Western Conference Finals, NBA, Tuesday, May 14, Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter was in the front row to see Stephen Curry catch fire at three-point shooting. Because of his team's defensive strategy, the Portland Trail Blazers, the pivot has, on several occasions, stayed planted in the racket, leaving the sniper of his opponents, the Golden State Warriors, straightening from a distance.
But no one has seen the plight of Enes Kanter in his country, the meeting – like the rest of the series, from Thursday, May 16 – not being broadcast by S Sport, the cable channel Turkish broadcast the NBA .
The reason ? The player is persona non grata in Turkey. He is accused "Belonging to a terrorist organization" by the government because of its support for preacher Fethullah Gülen, accused by the Turkish authorities of being the brain of the coup – failed – of 2016.
Very critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – he nicknamed him "The Hitler of our century" – the 26-year-old basketball player, whose passport was canceled, is under arrest for violating a law prohibiting insulting the president.
"It's not our responsibility, but it's like that"
Enes Kanter did not participate in a match of his relocated team in London in January for fear of being extradited. Its results are not treated by the Turkish media and its matches are not broadcast on national channels.
"I can clearly say that we will not be releasing the Warriors – Blazers series, confirmed to Reuters the commentator of S Sport, Omer Sarac before the first match. Also, if Portland qualifies for the final, it will not be aired either. It's not our responsibility, but it's like that. "
"There was no pressure from the government to influence our dissemination grid", said a spokesman for the country's first sports channel, in a statement, denouncing an attempt to "Some media to politicize the grid".
«All games of the Western Conference Finals will be available for fans in Turkey on NBA TV (accessible with a subscription on the cable) and online, on the NBA League Pass ", are we trying to temper at the NBA, questioned by The world. But none, therefore, with comments in Turkish, which triggered the ire of many NBA fans in the country where basketball is the second most popular sport.
The Eastern Conference finals, between the Toronto Raptors and the Milwaukee Bucks, are well programmed on the Turkish channel. If a Turkish player, Ersan İlyasova, evolves with the franchise of Wisconsin, he does not meddle in politics.
"The Turkish government is afraid of an NBA player"
"All these NBA fans aspire to watch the finals of the Western Conference, but they can not all because of me. It's both funny and crazy, (the Turkish government) afraid of an NBA player », commented Enes Kanter questioned by the Washington Post.
In passing, the player recalled that the Turkish televisions had also not broadcast the Western conference final in 2016 between his Oklahoma CIty Thunder team and the Warriors.
Almost in spite of himself, Enes Kanter, who had to cut the bridges with his family – she denied him to avoid trouble – finds himself a figure of opposition to the Turkish president. "I'm not a politician, ensures the player. This is not my role, but everyone is so afraid of Erdogan that I have to speak up to defend freedom and human rights. "
After Kanter complained – supported by the Players' Association – that the NBA's Twitter account in Turkish voluntarily omits his name, the North American league has broken his contract with the local company that tweets on his behalf. .
What a messed up country lead by #TurkishDictator @RTErdogan
Only Turkish player here tonight, and the officia … https://t.co/bW6hUaKkAE
But the league is treading on eggs, in a country where the government has not hesitated to continue the huge football star Hakan Sükür for the same reasons as Kanter – he lives in exile in California.
If by chance the Kanter Blazers and the Toronto Raptors reach the final, a new case will arise for the athlete, stateless de facto because private passport. Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has already written to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging him to make it easier for the pivot to participate in games played on Canadian soil.
Before that, it will be necessary for the teammates of the Turkish pivot to overturn the doubles NBA champions in title. Before playing the second round of the series (in the night of Thursday to Friday in France), the Golden State Warriors lead 1-0 against the Blazers.