NBA Player Calling Out China Might Lose His Job

By Charles Susswein | Sunday, 17 July 2022 16:45
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NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom has spoken candidly about the fallout of his human rights advocacy and the consequences it has had on family members in his native Turkey who are struggling to get hired and face social ostracization due to his backlash of the Erdogan regime.

Kanter Freedom, a Turkish NBA player who has become a vocal opposer of his industry’s business dealings with China, was one of many speakers from various religions and backgrounds who addressed the 2022 International Religious Freedom Summit in Washington, D.C., in late June.

He was traded to the Houston Rockets earlier this year before the NBA team cut him from their staff. Now a free agent, some critics wonder if his human rights advocacy and negative comments regarding the Chinese Communist Party will get him blackballed from the NBA.

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The athlete discussed his expulsion from Turkey, his worries about the state of religious freedom worldwide and his activism against the NBA’s relationship with China in an interview with The Christian Post.

Born Enes Kanter, the 30-year-old athlete, officially changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom when he became a United States citizen last year. While Kanter Freedom has played in the NBA for more than a decade, his activism has had repercussions for his family, who remain in Turkey.

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“It all started back in 2013,” he recalled. Kanter Freedom addressed a corruption scandal implicating Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a post on Twitter. He wanted to use his platform to serve as “a voice for all those innocent people who don’t have a voice,” referring to innocent Turks imprisoned by Erdogan. “Whatever it takes, I’m just going to go out there to speak the truth,” he vowed.

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Kanter Freedom told CP that his comment on social media and subsequent activism “obviously affected me and my family.”

“My dad was a scientist; he got fired from his job," he said. "My sister went to medical school for six years, but she still cannot find a job. My little brother was playing basketball in Turkey [and] just because of the same last name, he got kicked out of every team.”

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While his family “put out a statement” insisting that “we are disowning Ener,” Kanter Freedom said the “Turkish government didn’t believe that.”

"They came to my house in Turkey and they raided the whole house and took every [electronic device] away: phones, computers, laptops, [and] iPads because they wanted to see if I am still in contact with my family or not," he said.

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“They couldn’t find a lot of evidence but they still took my dad to jail for a while."

Pressure from American churches along with U.S. lawmakers pressed the Turkish government to release Kanter Freedom’s father. His father’s arrest led many to ask, “Is it worth it?” The athlete insisted that “people misunderstand."

"My family is only one. There are so many families, so many innocent people out there in jail right now getting tortured and maybe raped every day, so I have to stand up for those people," Kanter Freedom said.

This activism is what led to his removal from Turkey. “I’m speaking the truth. All the things that I talk about [are] fact. It’s out there on all the human rights reports out there. It’s not like I’m lying," he said. "And what I’m asking is I want freedom of my conscience, freedom of speech, religion and expression, and I want democracy in my country. I want human rights in my country. I want all the political prisoners to be freed and all the journalists to be freed in my country.”

The athlete argued that “if these things are going to get me in trouble,” the consequences he faces constitute a form of “good trouble.”

“It is what it is, but someone has to do this because, unfortunately, like China, many people in Turkey are scared to say anything about it because if you say a word, the next day you’re going to be in jail," Kanter Freedom stressed.

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