The family of one of the most prominent Turkish basketball players in the NBA on Tuesday publicly disowned him after he openly supported the US-based preacher who Ankara blames for last month’s failed coup.
Enes Kanter, 24, a centre for the NBA outfit Oklahoma City Thunder, has backed exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen in Twitter postings after the attempted putsch aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Since the coup, Turkey has embarked on a massive purge of all elements linked to Gulen from a range of institutions, detaining or sacking of tens of thousands of people.
According to a statement by his father Mehmet published in Turkish media, Kanter had been “hypnotised and used by the terror organisation” of Gulen.
“I reject Enes… as our son. I apologise to the our president and the Turkish people for the shame of having such a child,” said Mehmet Kanter.
The Hurriyet daily said he had confirmed the authenticity of the rejection letter.
The letter prompted a swift response from Kanter, who posted a missive of his own from his Twitter handle @Enes_Kanter.
“Today, at the age of 24, I have lost my mother, father, brother and all my family. My relatives do not want to see me again.”
Referring to Gulen, he added: “On the road to my teacher, I have sacrificed my mother, my father, my brother and entire family.”
Kanter has made no secret on Twitter and elsewhere of his loyalty to Gulen and his Hizmet (Service) movement which the Pennsylvania-based preacher insists is entirely peaceful.
“For this Hizmet not just one Enes but 1,000 Eneses would sacrifice themselves,” he wrote. “May my God take from my life and give every second of it to my teacher (Gulen).”
Appearing to signal that he had changed his name as a sign of loyalty, he signed the letter “Enes (Kanter) Gulen”.
In the wake of the coup, Kanter repeatedly retweeted articles containing denials by Gulen that he was behind the putsch.
A hugely successful basketball career has seen Kanter play for Utah Jazz from 2011-2015 before joining Oklahoma City Thunder as well as turning out for the Turkish national side.
Kanter is not the only Turkish sports star caught up in the controversy. Former international football striker Hakan Sukur — now based in the US — has been accused by state media of links to Gulen and is also on trial in absentia on charges of insulting Erdogan.