Enes Kanter Freedom doesn’t plan to stop his advocacy any time soon, even after receiving death threats for his stances.
On Monday, Kanter Freedom officially became a U.S. citizen, and legally changed his name as well. The Globe’s Gary Washburn chronicled Kanter Freedom’s momentous day.
“We did it,” he said. “I waited for this for like six years now. It’s finally happened. It’s like a dream come true. You can call me Mr. Freedom.”
Kanter Freedom has been an outspoken critic of the increasingly autocratic regime in his native Turkey, causing him to be banished from his homeland and potentially face arrest for international law enforcement agencies. Turkish prosecutors have put out nine international arrest warrants for the NBA veteran, who hasn’t seen his family in nearly 10 years.
In recent months, Kanter Freedom has spoken out against the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, including the genocide of religious minorities in the western part of the country. His words resulted in Chinese state TV cutting Celtics broadcasts. In addition, Kanter Freedom says he’s received “multiple death threats” for his opinions on Turkey and China.
“This is God’s work,” he told Washburn. “I’m not scared of anybody. I’m not scared of China, anyone I’m outspoken against because I know I’m doing this for innocent people.”
Kanter Freedom has also levied criticism towards LeBron James for his lucrative partnership with Nike and silence on the human rights abuses in China, where Nike products are manufactured. Earlier this month, Kanter Freedom wore shoes decrying James for choosing “money over morals.”
James, for his part, says he doesn’t want to extend energy answering to Kanter Freedom. ESPN’s NBA crew also admonished Kanter Freedom on a recent telecast for publicly airing his grievances with James.
Though the NBA hasn’t officially responded to Kanter Freedom, he said he thinks the league is watching his every move. “That’s the decision that [NBA commissioner] Adam Silver and China are going to make, obviously you see after I talk about some of the issues,” he said. “I don’t know if it affected [my playing time] or not,” he said. “The one thing I need to do is focus on my teammates. Focus on winning and having fun.”
After playing sporadically earlier this season, Kanter Freedom is spending more time on the floor as of late. He was out there for the entire fourth quarter of the Celtics’ win over the Raptors Sunday.
Kanter Freedom can be a good teammate and advocate at the same time. With Beijing slated to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, don’t expect him to be silenced any time soon.