Enes Kanter’s basketball camp was moved to a different location after the Islamic Center of Long Island postponed his appearance due to what Kanter says was interference from the Turkish government.
Kanter will now host the camp at the Island Garden on Sunday afternoon in West Hempstead, with an assist from Long Island congresswoman Kathleen Rice.
“The Islamic Center of Long Island is a wonderful local organization that does incredible work in our community,” Rice said in a statement emailed to the Daily News. “I’m disappointed that the Turkish Consulate politicized this event, which was meant for our kids.
“I’m glad I could help Enes find a new location for his camp and I look forward to supporting his advocacy against President (Recep) Erdogan’s authoritarianism.”
Kanter, a Turkish native and practicing Muslim, is an outspoken critic of Erdogan, whose government has been accused by the United Nations of “massive destruction, killings and numerous other serious human rights violations.”
Kanter believes his vocal and peaceful opposition is the reason he’s charged in Turkey as a member of a “criminal terrorist” group. Now a member of the Boston Celtics after signing a two-year deal this month, Kanter’s games are blacked out in Turkey, and he claims Nike declined to endorse him because it feared backlash.
On Wednesday night, Kanter wrote that the Islamic Center of Long Island was bullied by the Turkish government into canceling his camp.
“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,” Kanter said. “Which is why I am so hurt that the Islamic Center of Long Island has decided to cancel the camp after the Turkish Consulate in NYC threatened the mosque, sent out their goons and encouraged people in Turkey to call the mosque and leave threatening messages.
A representative for the Islamic Center of Long Island, Michael Balboni, said the event was postponed for re-evaluation but without a set makeup date. He acknowledged that the postponement was due to politics, and specifically concerns in the community about using a “controversial figure” to host the camp.
“The camp was postponed to try to limit the politicization of what should be a good, athletic event for kids to learn how to play basketball with a professional player,” Balboni said.
Balboni denied being threatened by the Turkish Consulate.