New York Knicks center Enes Kanter's comments about Turkey amount to a "political smear campaign," according to former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu.
Kanter said he would not accompany the Knicks to London for a January 17 game against the Washington Wizards because "there's a chance I can get killed out there" over his outspoken and ongoing clash with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkoglu, a chief adviser to the president, made his feelings over Kanter's comments clear in a Twitter post on Monday.
"We know that he has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017," Turkoglu wrote.
"In other words, Kanter can't enter the UK not because of fears for life as he claims but due to passport and visa issues. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.
"Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradictions in his sports career. ... It is obvious that this person's remarks are irrational and distort the truth."
The Knicks say a visa issue will prevent Kanter from travelling to England, however, according to The Athletic, the 26-year-old claims there is no such problem and planned to release a travel document as proof.
Kanter said former Orlando Magic man Turkoglu is criticising him because he is a "lap dog" for the Turkish government.
The dispute between Kanter and Erdogan springs in part from the player's outspoken support of United States-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the president accuses of being behind a failed attempt to overthrow the Turkish government.
Gulen denies Erdogan's accusation that he was behind a failed coup.
Turkey's state-run news agency reported in 2017 that prosecutors were seeking that Kanter be sentenced to more than four years in prison for insulting Erdogan in a series of tweets the previous year.
As part of the fallout, Kanter's Turkish passport was cancelled in 2017 and he was held for a time at a Romania airport before returning to the US.