Enes Kanter’s American Dream Come True
Freedom is now his name, and freedom is what he advocates for on and off the basketball court.
By: Sarah Cowgill | January 7, 2022 | 597 Words
When you make millions of dollars playing a game you love, and have legions of adoring fans, what could possibly make anyone any happier? For National Basketball Association (NBA) star Enes Kanter, it is becoming an American citizen.
Kanter came to the U.S. to play basketball. He settled in America, and made it to the top of his sport. To celebrate his new citizenship, Kanter changed his last name officially to Freedom. After taking his oath, Kanter waved a miniature American flag and exclaimed, “Freedom, that’s it.” Taking to Twitter he explained, “I am proud to be an American. Greatest nation in the world. The Land of the free, and home of the brave.”
And freedom is what he advocates for on and off the basketball court.
Searching for Freedom
Kanter was born in Zurich, Switzerland, to Turkish parents. Growing up, Enes attended grade school and high school in Turkey, where he played basketball for the country’s youth league. In 2009, he moved to the United States and attended Stoneridge Preparatory School in California. He hoped to play college basketball, but the National Collegiate Athletic Association said he was ineligible due to payments from his days in the Turkish league.
In 2011 Kanter was recruited into the NBA by Utah. He has played for the Utah Jazz, New York Knicks, Portland Trailblazers and is currently on the roster of the Boston Celtics.
Kanter has been an outspoken critic of government corruption in Turkey. Due to his criticisms, the government reportedly persecuted his family. Unlike the U.S., Turkey doesn’t guarantee free speech for its citizens, so the government can act against those who criticize it. Kanter said he was afraid to return to the country because he feared that his family and friends would be harmed.
But Enes Kanter Freedom isn’t just critical of Turkey – he has been getting more attention of late for speaking out against the Chinese government. He has condemned China’s treatment of Uighur Muslims, and also said he supports freeing the people of Tibet from Chinese control.
One way he has expressed his thoughts is by wearing sneakers with different messages written on them. Mr. Freedom was asked by two people claiming to be NBA officials to remove his sneakers with the message “free Tibet” emblazoned on the side before a Celtics game. He refused, and he pointed out that the First Amendment protects his right to freely express his opinion.
Outspoken for the rights of others, Freedom has given several interviews on the subject and has managed to draw the ire of China. Perhaps due to comments such as, “I say, ‘Shame on the Chinese government. The Chinese dictatorship is erasing Tibetan identity and culture.’” As a result, China blocked all Celtics games on its streaming service, Tencent.
Human rights and China is a controversial topic these days, especially in basketball since the NBA makes a lot of money in China. It seems Enes Kanter Freedom is not afraid of stirring up debate, however.
When he changed his name, the basketball player commented, “[Freedom] is the one thing that in my whole life I have tried to fight for. Freedom is the greatest thing that a human being can have. That’s why I wanted to make that a part of me and carry it wherever I go.”