In recent weeks, more and more professional athletes have spoken out and stepped over the invisible, perhaps imaginary line separating sports from politics. Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter stepped over it long before most. Kanter is Turkish, and for the majority of his decade in the NBA, he's been an outspoken critic of Turkey's authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It's had consequences for him and his family, with his father sentenced to 15 years in prison in Turkey. But earlier this month, Kanter announced that his father was being released. Kanter spoke with WGBH News' All Things Considered host Arun Rath. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: You've been targeted by Erdogan over your support for Fethullah Gulen and his movement. Gulen is a cleric and an opponent of the Erdogan regime who lives in Pennsylvania. His movement has been classified as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government. Erdogan blames it for an attempted coup four years ago. Is it because of your support for Gulen that your father came to be imprisoned?

Enes Kanter: First of all, let me get this straight. I visit Mr. Gulen probably once a month if my schedule allows it and if we have no games or practice. You were just talking about the coup attempt that the Turkish government blamed on Mr. Gulen and his movement. That night, I was actually with Mr. Gulen. 2016, July 15. I saw Mr. Gulen there with my own eyes. He sat on his chair and prayed for his country.

To me it was just so crazy, because right after the coup attempt, President Erdogan came out and blamed Mr. Gulen and his followers. You know what? I was with Mr. Gulen that night. I saw, and his followers, what he did with my own eyes. He actually cried that night because over 250 people died that night.

So that's why I'm very outspoken about these issues. And, you know, when you are outspoken this much, of course, it affects me and my family. My dad was a genetics professor, he got fired from his job. My sister went to medical school for six years, now she cannot find a job because of our last name. You know, it was affecting my family too much. My family had to put a statement out there and say 'we are disowning Enes.' And I remember the Turkish government didn't believe that letter. They sent police to my house in Turkey and they raided the whole house and they took all electronics away - phones, computers, laptops. Because they wanted to see if I am in contact with my family or not, and if they were to see any text messages, any missed calls, they would be all in trouble. But they still actually put my dad in jail for a while, but we put so much pressure from here to Turkey, they let him go.

Rath: This is just brutal, having to go through that - being publicly disowned by your family. Were you able to maintain contact with them since then and and to this time?

Kanter: I have not communicated with my mother, I have not communicated with my father, or my sister. One of my brothers actually plays basketball in Spain, so I am in contact with him. And one of my other brothers actually plays in America. He goes to a university here, Georgia State, so I'm in touch with him. But the last time I talked to my family, the last time I saw my family, was back in 2015. It is a huge risk to pick up my phone and call my mother, call my father, and say, 'how are you guys doing?' Because they literally listen in and track down everything. So I don't want to put them in danger.

Rath: Is there a risk of putting them in danger by being as vocal as you are and having conversations like this?

Kanter: After my father was released, there were so many people, so many of my teammates, my ex-teammates, so many of my coaches or people from the NBA, and the fans - they messaged me saying, 'oh hey Enes, you can be happy now, you can relax. You can just live your life. You can have a happy life now.'

I'm like, my fight is far from over. My fight is just getting started because my family is only one family. My dad is only one. There are thousands of people out there, their situation is way worse than mine. I need to let people know what's going on there and put pressure on. Because right now, if you look at Turkey, Turkey is the number one country in the world that puts the most journalists in jail. There are so many people that are in there right now because of their political views. If you look at some of the reports out there from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights Foundation, there are almost 70,000 innocent women in jail right now and almost 800 babies just because of their political views.

I have to do this for all those people out there because I cannot be selfish. I'm like, 'OK, my father is free. Let me just relax now?' I cannot do it.

Rath: And an arrest warrant has been issued for you in Turkey, right?

Kanter: Yes, they did, actually. They put out an arrest warrant out there for me two years ago.

Rath: Do you have any concerns about that with, say, international travel? There's not an extradition treaty, but we do know that President Erdogan is close with President Trump.

Kanter: Very. Very. The thing is, they put my name in the Interpol red notice system. So that is one of the biggest reasons that I am waiting to become an American citizen, so I can travel. I mean, don't get me wrong. I love America. America has given me so much. From day one, they opened their arms. That's why I can proudly say that next year, June 15th, I am becoming an American citizen. I'm very excited about it.

Rath: Congratulations.

Kanter: I appreciate it. Thank you. But just because my name is on Interpol, I cannot travel outside of America. This season we had to go to Canada to play against the Toronto Raptors. Just because of one game, we had to get in touch with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office. And it just gave me so much hope that his office and Trudeau himself said, 'tell him not to worry about it. He can come and play this game freely and leave comfortably.' And they gave me so much hope.

And the thing you said about Erdogan and Trump, they are very close, yes. Just because of all these issues that are happening right now in America with Black Lives Matter and protests, I wanted to be with my city and I wanted to peacefully protest with my teammates and with my city in Boston. I learned a few days later, after the protest, that President Trump tweeted something about "antifa," that he wanted to declare it a terrorist group. So after that tweet, there is actually a video out there which is President Erdogan talking about, 'I had a conversation with Mr. Trump on the phone, and Enes Kanter is a terrorist, and we called Trump and he said he's going to look into it.'

There is actually a video out there on the Internet. I am going to share it with the whole world soon.

Rath: Speaking of political speech and protest speech, when the NBA resumes play, some players are going to be wearing political messages on their jerseys. You posted a photoshopped picture of you holding your jersey with a personalized message on the back. Tell us what it says.

Kanter: I got that picture from the internet, and to me it was very funny, but of course I'm not going to put "Erdogan Sucks" on my jersey. But I think the NBA and also the NBPA, the Players Association, is doing an amazing job about social justice issues.

Rath: So it sounds like the Erdogan regime is not letting up in terms of its stance towards Gulen, towards you. What do you think the prospects are that things will get better, that you will be able to maybe talk to your dad?

Kanter: Let me just make this clear, because whenever I talk about these issues, people get me wrong. I love my country. I love my flag. I love my people. My problem is with the regime in Turkey, with the Erdogan regime. If the regime changes, I believe Turkey is going to - it's going to take some time - but Turkey is going to have a very bright future. Because Turkey could be the bridge between Islam and the West. But just because all these problems are happening, it's impossible.

But right now, we had good news about my father's release. But we still don't know if the travel ban is off or on. If the travel ban is off, I would love to bring all my family to America. Because America - when you think about America, there is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. So that's why I think my family will be very happy in the United States.