BOSTON — One day after posting a video of himself and another Celtics player being verbally harassed while leaving a local mosque, center Enes Kanter sat down with Boston 25 News to tell his side of the story.
In a video that has already gained international attention, Kanter records two men yelling at him in Turkish as he leaves a Cambridge mosque with teammate Tacko Fall after Friday prayer.
The NBA star told Boston 25 News in a one-on-one interview he was verbally attacked by supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan due to his criticism of the country's administration.
He says the people attacking him told him to go to his father's mosque and were allegedly calling him a "traitor."
"They were calling me a traitor, calling me - you know, 'You’re free here but if you go back to your country it will get ugly,'" said Kanter. "And they were just saying, 'Go to your dad's mosque' or something."
An outspoken critic of Erdoğan, Kanter says he's dealt with criticism of his political views for years, but that "this [was] the first time it’s ever happened in America."
According to Kanter, he took the video to show what he was dealing with to the Celtics' security team, but posted it to send a much greater message.
"I just wanted to show the whole world that look, this is America, and I can’t even go to a mosque and pray in peace," said Kanter. "And if they’re doing this in a house of God, what can they do in the dark or just in a place where it’s just me and them around."
Kanter says he'll keep expressing his political views and will use his platform as a professional basketball player to speak up for those at home who he feels are suffering under Erdoğan's policies.
"People are telling me now that this happened, are you going to slow down?" said Kanter. "I’m like why would I slow down, because what I’m talking about is human rights, democracy, justice and freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, so I’m like I would never back down. Because I’m not doing this for myself, I’m doing this for innocent people who don’t have a voice."
Cambridge Mayor Marc McGovern tweeted his support to Kanter on Saturday, saying he's here to help if needed. Kanter has been receiving numerous messages of support from people all over the world since posting the video.
Senator Ed Markey also posted to his Twitter account in support of Kanter and his right to freedom of speech and religion.
Boston 25 News has not been able to reach the two men who confronted Kanter to see what they have to say about what happened.
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