DUBAI: Turkish sports broadcaster, S Sport, has blocked the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) western conference finals between Portland Trail Blazers and Golden State Warriors from being screened due to the former’s center Enes Kanter.
“I can say clearly that we will not be broadcasting the Warriors-Blazers series,” S Sport commentator Omer Sarac told Reuters. “Furthermore, if Portland makes it to the finals, [that] will not be broadcast either… this situation is not about us, but it is what it is.”
Kanter, a member of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen’s movement, is a vocal critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A warrant for his arrest has been issued by the Turkish government for alleged terrorism charges, and his passport was canceled in 2017.
“All these NBA fans, they want to watch the Western Conference finals, but they can’t all because of me. It’s funny and crazy. [The Turkish government] is afraid of an NBA player,” Kanter said in a phone interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday.
“I’m not a politician. It’s not my job, but everyone is so scared of Erdogan that I have to step up and speak out for freedom and human rights. It shows it’s a dictatorship in Turkey.”
Although Kanter is Turkey’s most successful basketball player ever, he is considered to be an “enemy of the country,” and Turkey’s broadcasters have ignored Kanter’s games since he was indicted last year by a Turkish court.
In response, the NBA scrapped its contract with the local vendor running the Turkish Twitter account.
Basketball’s popularity is second only to soccer among Turkey’s 82 million people.
“It is mind-blowing that a conference final will not be broadcast in Turkey,” said Mete Aktas, a well-known Turkish NBA commentator and former chief editor of NBA Turkey magazine.