Ron Wyden still has Enes Kanter's back.
As WW recounted in this week's cover story, Kanter—the Turkish center who joined the Portland Trail Blazers at mid-season—is a vocal critic of his homeland's strongman president, Recep Erdogan. Kanter's criticism has led to a crackdown: He says the Turkish government has canceled his passport and put out a warrant for his arrest.
Since Kanter arrived in Portland in March, Wyden, the state's senior U.S. senator, has taken up his cause. He has advocated for Kanter with the White House and on the floor of Congress.
Today, Wyden added more. Should the Blazers advance to play an international opponent in the NBA Finals, the senator would ensure safe travel for Kanter.
"Rip City dreaming big," Wyden wrote today on Twitter. "Was asked a good question today in Portland by KPAM 860. What if the Trail Blazers somehow make the NBA Finals against Toronto? Lots of 'ifs' but one thing's for sure—we'd do everything possible to make sure Enes Kanter can travel freely outside the U.S. and do his job."
Wyden's support comes during an eventful week for Kanter. On Thursday, a fan in Denver heckled him: "Go back to Turkey—oh wait, you can't!"
The taunt was met with widespread repudiation.
"I wish I could go back to Turkey to see family," Kanter replied on Twitter. "But I chose to support democracy, freedom and human rights, I am grateful for most Americans supporting that right. Nuggets, take control of your fans. This is hurtful. Be grateful for the democracy and freedom we have here."
The same night, Kanter brought attention to the National Basketball Association's Turkish social-media vendor, which had excised his scoring from the summary of the Blazers' May 1 victory. The league quickly cancelled the vendor's contract.
Amid this tumult, Kanter gave a shout-out to Wyden in his postgame press conference. "This team, this organization, the city, the whole state, even the senator, it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me in my basketball career," Kanter said. "I cannot thank them enough. That's why every day I wake up and look in the mirror and say I should feel blessed."
Wyden will attend the Blazers' home game with the Denver Nuggets tonight.