NBA Player Enes Kanter Blasts LeBron James Over His China Comments: 'Freedom Is Not Free'


Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James was given what appeared to be a Twittersphere elbow to the gut Tuesday by Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter, who reminded James and the world that “freedom is not free.”

The NBA became embroiled in controversy after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The Chinese government was irate at the tweet, which read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Kong.”

James on Monday went on a rant about the downside of free expression.

“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.”

“So many people could have been harmed,” James continued. “Not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

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That remark earned James some condemnation, including the scorn of USA Today columnist Dan Wolken, who upbraided James in a Tuesday Op-Ed.

“On behalf of the 327 million American citizens who generally believe that freedom is good and authoritarian regimes are less good, let me apologize to LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers,” he wrote.

“It must have been a real inconvenience to take that 13-hour chartered flight to China last week and hang around a luxury hotel in Shanghai for five days while promotional appearances got canceled. Surely it was awful to be in the middle of an international firestorm where the stakes were so high: Would preseason NBA games be played or not?”

Wolken then turned his wrath directly on the superstar.

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“Maybe you don’t know it, but your  news conference on Monday night played right into the hands of Chinese government propaganda and undermined the values you espouse in other facets of your life and public persona,” he wrote.

“Not supporting other Americans who exercise that same freedom because it might personally inconvenience you for a few days overseas, LeBron, is without question the most disgraceful moment of your career,” Wolken wrote.

James, for his part, dug in his heels on Twitter.

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Then came Kanter, a Turkish national opposed to the rule of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Kanter reminded James the price that can be paid for freedom.

“Wow dude!” he wrote on Twitter minutes after James posted his statement to the platform.

“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,” he added on Tuesday.

“FREEDOM IS NOT FREE,” Kanter wrote.

Kanter also wrote about his experiences as an opponent of Erdogan’s regime in an Op-Ed last week for the The Boston Globe.

“There are tens of thousands of people — including teachers, doctors, members of the judiciary and military, lawyers, bureaucrats, journalists, and activists — in prisons for years just because they’re not die-hard followers of Erdogan,” he wrote.

“Hundreds of babies are growing up in small prison cells with their mothers. Democracy today is on life support, if not dead, and anyone who speaks up faces prison time,” he wrote.”

Kanter said his life off the court is devoted to raising awareness.

“Basketball is my escape. Whenever I am on the court with my teammates, either practicing or playing a game, I focus entirely on basketball. If I were to bring any of these conversations to the court, it would be very selfish of me,” Kanter wrote.

“But as soon as I step off the court, these questions come to my mind: What can I do for innocent people in Turkey who are suffering? Am I doing enough? How can I raise awareness?” he added

“Professional athletes have an enormous opportunity to be a source of inspiration for the younger generation, lead by example, and prove to them that as long as you stand up for what you believe in, everything is possible. I am looking forward to giving my best to the Boston Celtics and enjoying this new chapter of my NBA career with people in this great city who have welcomed me warmly.”

All activities on behalf of human rights carry a risk, he wrote.

“I have a prominent platform and I want to use it to promote respect for human rights, democracy, and personal freedom. For me, this is bigger than basketball. Being a champion of tens of thousands of voiceless people back in my home country carries a risk that includes death threats and arrest warrants,” he wrote.

“I would languish in prison if I were in Turkey. Being apart from my family and friends has taken an enormous toll on me. But nothing good comes easy. I have been receiving death threats for years now. 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,” Kanter added.

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at
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