Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today met with Enes Kanter, Center for the New York Knicks to discuss ongoing human rights abuses and democratic backsliding in Turkey under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
 
Photos courtesy of Senator Rubio’s office.
           
     
   

Highlights from the Q & A session with reporters in attendance is below.

 

RUBIO: [Ennis Kanter] plays in the National Basketball Association. What caught our attention to him was when he spoke out against Erdogan government he immediately began to receive threats. His travel documents, his passports were canceled. He’s been threatened, actually charged, with terrorism, which they define as speaking out against the government. To the point where he is here today instead of with his team in Europe because of fear that if he were to travel abroad he could be abducted or killed by agents of the regime. And it is a fear that is well founded. He just informed me that last night they place a red notice on Interpol, which calls into question whether he could travel to Canada. And I hope US authorities will step forward and ensure that he is given the ability to travel freely to all countries around the world we are allies with, because what he is accused of is ridiculous. And I think it is a reminder to Americans as well about how blessed we are to live in this nation where we are able to speak freely and disagree with one another and the worst thing that happens is people vote against us or they say something negative against us. But he is a reminder that in many parts of this world when you speak out against the government there is the threat of imprisonment or death. And it’s not just impacting him, his own father is now about to withstand trial for nothing, again for being his father. This is how ridiculous this has gotten. It’s a very dangerous situation and the best thing we can do, from our perspective, is continue to shine light on it and call attention to it because I believe the more awareness there is about his case the safer he will be and the more awareness there is about the nature of the Erdogan government the more pressure there is on it to moderate their behavior and stop doing these sorts of things. So I really want to thank you for coming in and being a part of this. I know you’re in the middle of a season and it’s difficult to be away from your team when they’re over there competing in a game that counts. But we’re glad you’re here, we’re glad you’re safe, and we’ll continue to be a spokesperson and an advocate on your behalf and on behalf of your right to criticize government actions.

 

KANTER: It means a lot. I always appreciate your work and your standing up for human rights and freedom of speech and democracy. It means a lot.

 

RUBIO: And we’ll continue to do it. Like I said, I think there are numerous members of my staff are Knicks fans. But I’m working on a trade even as I speak.

 

<<Laughter>>

 

I shouldn’t even joke about that, probably get a tampering charge. I obviously appreciate his athletic ability and what he does, but that he’s used that platform to call attention to a cause, many people in America, and I’ve been a defender, whether I agree with the viewpoints or not of athletes, to use that express what they believe. That’s a freedom we have in this country.  That should not just be limited to people that we agree with. In his particular case, I’m not sure there is a disagreement with him in domestic American politics. But what we should all agree on is that he should not have the fear of travel, or the fear of imprisonment or death, or of being abducted because he chooses to play with his team. So we’ll continue to speak out on his behalf, and we’ll continue to raise the case of his father who has already suffered terribly, again, for just being his family. And just think about that for a moment.

 

[…]

 

QUESTION: This is for both of you. What should Congress, in particular, beyond raising awareness through meetings like this, when it comes to this situation?

 

RUBIO: That’s a good question. I don’t know if there is a legislative remedy for it. We pass laws and we find budgets here, but I certainly think the platform of Congress is one that the more members of the House and Senate speak out, the more attention is paid, the more safe he will and the more we speak out about his family in Turkey the safer they’re going to be, we hope. I know we can do that. As far as we there is anything we can do with other nations and use our relationships or whether there is a legislative fix, I don’t know the answer to, but it is certainly something we would be willing to explore.

 

QUESTION: Anything you would like to see?

 

KANTER: Well, definitely, I appreciate it. One thing I would like to say, you know, my teammates and even like my friends are always telling me if I’m crazy or not. That why are you keep talking about these issues, because your family is still back in Turkey. People don’t understand I play in the NBA and I have a very big platform, so I’m using this big platform to try to be a voice for all those innocent people who don’t have a voice. So I think the most important thing is to understand that people over there are my family, but I will continue to keep talking about these issues because I want people to really know what is going on in Turkey.