New York Knicks center Enes Kanter is characteristically defiant after Turkish state-run media reported that he could face over four years in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a leader who many fear has seized authoritarian control over the country.
“Four years? That’s it?” Kanter quipped at Knicks practice on Wednesday morning, per the New York Daily News. “For all of the trash I’ve been talking?”
The charges stem from a series of tweets Kanter posted between May and June 2016 characterizing Erdogan as a brutal dictator and offering support for Fethullah Gulen, a cleric from the U.S. who was blamed for last summer’s failed coup.
Kanter was briefly detained in Romania last year after Turkish officials revoked his passport, but he was able to return to the United States after officials here intervened. Despite the threat of spending half a decade behind bars, though, Kanter remained optimistic.
“You guys were seeing today that I was just out there having fun, playing basketball and practicing with my teammates,” he said.
“You guys are going to say, ‘How do you get used to, like, prison, this and that, whatever?’ I think it’s just nothing to me, man, because I’m in America. I’m good. My focus right now is just going out there, playing basketball, having fun with my teammates and just winning, and just thinking about playoffs. I don’t really think about all this stuff, whatever. They can do whatever they want to do.”
When asked how he feels about the situation in Turkey, where he grew up, Kanter explained that his aggressive criticism of the Erdogan administration is meant to affect change.
“I’m just trying to be the voice of all these innocent people, man,” he said. “Because all of these innocent people are just going through really tough times. Journalists, innocent people in jail getting tortured and killed and kidnapped. And it’s pretty messed up.”