Turkey's S Sport will not air NBA's West finals due to Kanter involvement
S Sport, the Turkish broadcaster owned by Saran Media, will not show coverage of North American basketball’s NBA Western Conference Finals series between the Golden State Warriors and Portland Trail Blazers due to the participation of Turkey’s Enes Kanter amid his ongoing feud with the country’s government.
The Blazers center is estranged from his homeland and is a strong critic of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, publicly criticising him and his regime.
Much of it stems from the Turkish government accusing Kanter of having links with a group behind a failed coup attempt in the country in 2016. Turkey subsequently cancelled his passport in 2017 and sought an arrest warrant.
S Sport has also confirmed it will not air the NBA Finals if the Blazers advance.
Omer Sarac, the S Sport commentator, told Reuters: "I can say clearly that we will not be broadcasting the Warriors-Blazers series. 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."
The 26-year-old chose not to travel to London with the New York Knicks, his former team, earlier this year, when they took on the Washington Wizards in the annual regular season game in Europe, as he feared for his safety.
Having joined the Blazers in the latter stages of the NBA season, he also declined to travel to Canada with his new team for a game against the Toronto Raptors.
The Blazers recently advanced to the Western Conference Finals in the NBA Playoffs, where they began with a loss in game one against the Warriors on Tuesday night, but fans in Turkey were unable to watch Kanter in action against the defending champions on S Sport.
Mark Tatum, the NBA’s deputy commissioner and chief operating officer, stated that games in Turkey will be available via NBA TV International and NBA League Pass.
The NBA took matters into its own hands recently when it terminated a local vendor which was running the NBA’s Turkish-centric Twitter account for failing to acknowledge Kanter’s contributions in the Blazers’ second round, game two win over the Denver Nuggets.
The decision by S Sport is unlikely to go down well with the NBA as it is a crucial stage of the season and the series features the Warriors, one of the league's most watched teams globally.
With a potential NBA Finals matchup between the Blazers and the Raptors in store, Ron Wyden, a US senator, has expressed concern for Kanter’s safety if he has to travel to Canada.
Wyden wrote to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, earlier this week asking for the country’s government to provide “safe passage” for Kanter to get in and out of Canada.
Wyden’s letter read: “I ask your government to facilitate Mr Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada should the Portland Trail Blazers play the Toronto Raptors in Toronto, Canada, in the upcoming NBA finals. I also urge your government to state publicly that it will not comply with any Interpol red notice meant to interfere with Mr Kanter’s livelihood and to intimidate him and his family back in Turkey.”
Game two of the Western Conference Finals takes place on Thursday night, with the Blazers 1-0 down against the Warriors in the best-of-seven series.