New York Knicks center and Turkish descent Enes Kanter is skipping their upcoming game in London, fearing he could be killed by supporters of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
"Sadly, I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president," Kanter said in a post-game interview on Friday, per ESPN. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there. So that's why I talked to the front office. I'm not going."
Kanter has been highly critical of the authoritarian leader, who's reportedly jailed thousands of people on suspicion of taking part in a failed coup in 2016. Turkey's state-run news organization, Anadolu Agency, said that prosecutors were pressing charges against Kanter for being critical of Erdogan in 2017. Kanter has been vocal in his support of Fethullah Gulen, an exiled cleric living in the U.S. and outspoken critic of Erdogan. He feels that that support could endanger him if he traveled to Europe.
"It's pretty sad that just all this stuff affects my career and basketball, because I want to be out there helping my team win. But just because of that one lunatic guy, one maniac or dictator, I can't even go out there and just do my job. So it's pretty sad," he said.
The Knicks' official line is that Kanter is dealing with a visa issue. However, he maintains that he could be killed if he leaves the country.
"They've got a lot of spies there," he said. "I can get killed very easy. That will be a very ugly situation."