Teenage basketball star Enes Kanter was shocked when his teammates criticized President Barack Obama on Facebook.
“Hey, what are you doing?” he cried. He feared his teammates would be jailed.
Kantar is from Turkey and, as he explained to me, in Turkey there are people who criticize the president. conduct go to jail.
his teammates laughed at him. “They were explaining to me freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of protest.”
That inspired him.
When the Turkish president shut down the press, Kanter decided, “I’m going to say something about it.”
He tweeted, wrote op-eds, and gave interviews.
Turkey’s authoritarian rulers retaliated. They imprisoned their father. “They wanted to set an example. This is what happens when you oppose the Turkish government.”
The NBA supported his protest. “[NBA commissioner] Adam Silver texted me twice and said, “Whatever you need, we’re here for you. Keep doing what you’re doing.”
However, he criticized China. a bit. He wrote “Free Tibet” on his basketball shoes.
“There are no rules for that,” he says. Other players put “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” on their shoes.criticizing America recommended by the NBA.
But the “Free Tibet” on the shoes was overkill. A Celtics official told him to take them off.
he refused. “I wasn’t going to take them off because it’s literally free speech.”
In fact, it doesn’t. Free speech in America applies to government. The NBA can legally censor employees who could cost money. They cantered just that. he couldn’t play
It’s clear what the NBA was afraid of. China TV banned coverage of the Celtics game minutes after Kanter tweeted a picture of the shoe. Just temporarily.
The Celtics traded Kanter to the Houston Rockets. The Rockets fired him. He has not received offers from other teams. “He could have played six more years,” he says.
some sports organizations protect Their athletes who oppose China’s oppressive rules. When tennis player Peng Shuai went missing for days after accusing a senior Chinese government official of sexually assaulting her, the Women’s Tennis Association said it would support her, even if it cost her money.
The NBA doesn’t.
They were able to stand up for the right of one player to speak out and peacefully criticize cruelty.The NBA reportedly gets 10% of its revenue from China. The NBA makes billions. Can’t they take 10% risk?
NBA games are very popular in China. Chinese leaders have probably resumed television coverage. It is not in their interest to permanently ban NBA games.
“There were more people watching NBA games in China last year than there were people in the United States,” Kanter said. “I don’t think China will ban all NBA games.”
But no one in the NBA endorsed him. No one in management. no teammates. “For 10 years I talk about Turkey. I didn’t get a single phone call. One day I talked about China. Me and my manager were getting calls every hour.”
“Hypocrisy hurts me the most. [the NBA is] The first organization said, “This is wrong. This is what should happen, blah, blah, blah.”
But silence the victims of torture.
Kanter has now changed its name to ‘Freedom’. Officially changed. His real name is Enes Freedom. “I did it because I believe that next to air, water, and food, the most important thing is freedom. Any way to fire an American citizen will kill me.”
Enes Freedom has lost a lot, but he’s glad he spoke up.
“If God gave you a gift, you can repay by standing by people,” he says. “That means a lot to people who don’t have a voice. If you don’t speak up about some of the issues that are happening, you are part of the problem.”