NEW YORK – AHEPA honored Turkish philhellene NBA basketball player and Portland Trailblazers center Enes Kanter with its Human Rights Award, presented by AHEPA Supreme President George Horiates and Gregory J. Stamos, Past Supreme Counselor of AHEPA and President of the Hellenic Bar Association of Connecticut, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Downtown Manhattan on April 30 before the Trailblazers faced the Brooklyn Nets that night.
"This is an initiative that Gregory Stamos and I took together. We believe that it is very important to award the AHEPA Human Rights Prize for the first time, rewarding everything that Enes Kanter does, not only for his attitude towards Erdogan, but also towards Hellenism. It is a common view of our Armenian and Kurdish friends, about how important it is to know the efforts of Enes Kanter for human rights everywhere,” said Horiatis told The National Herald.
In his first meeting with the Greek-American community, Enes Kanter could not hide his emotion, reiterating his feelings of friendship and solidarity with the Greeks but also the need to build, with his own contribution, "bridges of peace" between the two peoples, at a time when relations between the two countries are being tested at the political level.
"I feel great. I feel we are now taking the right steps to build bridges between neighbors, Turkey and Greece. I was honored to receive the Human Rights Award from an amazing organization that does so much around the world. There are not enough words to thank the Greeks, because, as I have said, from day one, they have opened their arms to the Turks under pressure from the Erdogan regime, welcoming them in. Also, my brother plays for a Greek team called the Kolossos, so he will be very happy when he hears about this award," Kanter said exclusively to TNH.
At the same time, Kanter noted that he would be interested in staying in touch with the Greek community, promising to attend events when conditions allow.
"It was the first time I came in contact with the Greek-American community. I had some discussions with some Greek Consuls in the past but it was the first time I came in contact with the Greek-American community in the U.S. and I am very happy about it. When I get my passport, Greece will be one of the first countries I visit, because of my brother, obviously, but also the food, the people, the dance, the culture there and I am very excited,” he told TNH.
For his part, Gregory Stamos praised Enes Kanter for his general stance on Greek-Turkish relations and the vigor with which he opposed Erdogan's inflammatory policies and human rights violations in Turkey.
“Kanter is a man who knows what philotimo is. He does everything with his heart. What AHEPA is doing today is very important. We did not come to recognize his athletic ability, but his philotimo and concern for the whole world,” noted Stamos.
Kanter, a close friend of Panathinaikos star Mario Hezonja, has repeatedly expressed his sympathy and interest in the six-time European Champion. When asked if he would consider a transfer to Panathinaikos in the future, his answer left an open window and would please fans of the "Greens."
"Obviously, growing up, my brother and I supported Panathinaikos. Now, one of my best friends, Mario Hezonja, plays for Panathinaikos. So when my NBA career is over, Panathinaikos will be one of the teams that I will discuss in order to play,” he concluded.