Today, the Atlantic published a piece by Boston Celtics basketball player Enes Kanter, explaining the difficult journey he went through prior to becoming an American citizen:
Since Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became president of Turkey in 2014, after more than a decade as prime minister, at least 12,881 people have been convicted of the crime of insulting the president. Thousands have been sent to prison, including children, for offenses as trivial as posting something on social media that might hurt the feelings of an emotionally fragile dictator…
Erdoğan went after my family because I dared to speak up. He forced my parents to publicly disown me. The words in a handwritten note from my dad in 2016 cut me to my core: “With a feeling of shame, I apologize to our president and the Turkish people for having such a son.” My siblings were blocked from employment. My dad was fired, later jailed, and then ultimately released in 2020. But he emerged from his cell a completely different person, unable to speak about his experiences. I have not seen or spoken with my parents since 2015. Any contact with me could have them arrested…
Erdoğan’s regime is infamous for hunting down dissidents across the globe. In 2017, on a basketball trip to Indonesia, I received a tip to leave the country immediately, to avoid a suspected kidnapping attempt by Turkish agents.
Kanter wasn’t kidnapped but Turkey did revoke his passport, leaving him stateless. Turkey then issued an arrest warrant for him claiming he was a member of a terrorist group.
All of that is behind him now. At the end of last month, Kanter became an American citizen and, at the same time, changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom. Here’s video of that moment:
I am proud to be an American.
Greatest nation in the world.
The Land of the free, and home of the brave. 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/8mbUX1dpWS
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) November 29, 2021
He concludes his piece in the Atlantic:
I’m overwhelmed with emotion just writing these words: I, Enes Kanter Freedom, am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America, the land of the free, and home of the brave.
He got a warm welcome from the crowd when he checked in at his next Celtics game:
Celtics Nation gets loud for Enes Freedom as he checks in for the first time pic.twitter.com/ahJ5l4AoD8
— Taylor Snow (@taylorcsnow) December 2, 2021
Beyond his own path to citizenship, Freedom has been making a lot of noise about the lack of freedom in other places around the world. He has recently praised the WTA for its decision to remove competition from China over the disappearance of tennis player Peng Shuai. And he’s continued to put pressure on the NBA and other groups that stay silent about what is happening in China because they want to preserve their business deals.
Staying silent only increases the appetite of authoritarian governments.
Morals > Money pic.twitter.com/ZyXKfjnL8s
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) December 4, 2021
This week he has turned his attention to another dictatorship, the one in Venezuela:
I'm here to raise the voices of millions against a Dictatorship that made
6 million+ people flee #Venezuela
6 million+ people who are now looking for a chance to survive outside of their country & dreaming of returning home to hug their loved ones
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) December 8, 2021
I’m happy for Enes Freedom but I worry about him a bit too. He is making a lot of powerful enemies, not just in China and Venezuela but here at home. His statements are costing the NBA money and making some high-profile players like LeBron James look bad. That won’t be forgotten. The first moment he stumbles in any way, there will be a host of people in the NBA and abroad eager to capitalize on it. I hope I’m wrong about that but something tells me LeBron James and others won’t miss the opportunity for payback when it comes.