For years now, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter has spoken out against the Chinese Communist Party and its human rights abuses. He now plans to celebrate his U.S. citizenship and the liberty it entails by changing his last name.
The Athletic reporter Shams Charania reported Sunday that Kanter planned to legally change his last name to “Freedom.” “Kanter” will be his new middle name.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is legally changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, @TheAthletic @Stadium learned. Kanter will be his middle name, Freedom is his new last name. He becomes a U.S. citizen on Monday.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 28, 2021
He was to be sworn in as a U.S. citizen on Monday. His last name was still listed as “Kanter” at 5 p.m. Eastern on the Celtics website, but his Twitter handle had been changed to “Enes Kanter FREEDOM.”
Kanter’s criticism of China began in 2019 when then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced support for protesters in Hong Kong. At the time, NBA star LeBron James said Morey was wrong to speak out.
“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with … Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke,” James said.
“And so many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet, what we say and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that, too.”
LeBron James on if Daryl Morey should be reprimanded for his tweet pic.twitter.com/6hCE8vCyNn
— Mark Medina (@MarkG_Medina) October 15, 2019
Kanter apparently took aim at James on Twitter after those comments and said, “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE.”
-Haven’t seen or talked to my family 5 years
-Jailed my dad
-My siblings can’t find jobs
-Revoked my passport
-International arrest warrant
-My family can’t leave the country
-Got Death Threats everyday
-Got attacked, harassed
-Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) October 15, 2019
Kanter is a native of Turkey and has spoken out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He said he has not been allowed to visit his family since 2015 after Turkey canceled his passport and issued arrest warrants for him.
“I have been receiving death threats for years now,” Kanter wrote in an Op-Ed in The Boston Globe on Oct. 10, 2019. “This is the price I am ready to pay if this is what it takes to stand up for what I believe is right. It’s worth it.”
He Kanter has repeatedly criticized James and the NBA writ large for their refusal to condemn China’s human rights violations. Just this month, Kanter told CNN that other players speaking up about social justice movements such as Black Lives Matter encouraged him to be more outspoken against China.
“NBA made me do this,” Kanter said. “Because every time when one of the NBA teams or the commissioner comes out to speak, they say we are encouraging players to talk about whatever they want to talk about.
“We are giving freedom to our players to talk about all the injustices happening around the world, all the human rights abuses around the world. So, they gave me this right.”
CNN said Kanter has met privately with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who says he supports Kanter’s right to free speech. But the league, which has historically profited off of ties to China, has yet to issue a statement condemning the human rights abuses.
“If they were really supporting me, they would have put something out there,” Kanter said. “They would have put out some kind of statement.”
“People think I do politics. I don’t do politics. I do human rights.”
The U.S. government estimates a million Uyghurs and other ethnic and religious minorities have been imprisoned in Chinese internment camps since 2017, according to the State Department. Kanter told CNN the lack of condemnation for these abuses was all about the profits.
“There are so many athletes, so many actors, so many singers and so many people who have a platform that are speaking out about many of the issues out there in the world,” he said.
“But when it comes to China … they are scared because they care too much about money, they care too much about business and they care too much about endorsement deals.”
“To me, the human rights, and saving people’s lives, comes first.”
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