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NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom, who received his U.S. citizenship a few weeks ago, recounted his experience as a politically persecuted man in his home country, Turkey, and said he is proud to have become a free citizen of the United States of America.
In an op-ed published by The Atlantic on Thursday, Kanter Freedom said that, beyond having to adapt to a new language and new traditions, what struck him most upon arriving in the United States was the freedom with which Americans can criticize the president.
“This is not Turkey, brother. You’re free to say whatever you want,” one of his teammates told him upon seeing Kanter’s reaction when he criticized former President Obama.
“Americans may find the idea absurd, but the threat of prison is all too real for those living under authoritarian rule anywhere in the world,” Kanter Freedom wrote in his heartfelt text replete with reflections on freedom of speech and against totalitarianism.
“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 for the crime of insulting the president,” the athlete recounts in his text. “Thousands have been sent to prison, including children, for crimes as trivial as posting something on social media that could hurt the feelings of an emotionally fragile dictator.”
The Boston Celtics basketball player described the “dystopian” persecution of Erdoğan’s dissidents around the world and provided harsh details about how the Turkish tyrant forced his family to publicly disinherit him for raising his voice against the dictatorship.
“With a sense of shame, I apologize to our president and the Turkish people for having such a son.” Those were the words the Erdoğan regime forced Kanter’s father to handwrite in order to later revoke the basketball player’s citizenship while he was on a tour of Europe.
“I was stranded. I had no family. I had no nationality. I had no home,” Kanter wrote. “That’s when the United States welcomed me with open arms.”
Since then, Kanter Freedom recounts that he found “all the opportunities in the world” in America, and decided to use his fame to champion the causes of “the voiceless.”
Enes Kanter Freedom and his criticism of woke celebrities
Recently, the basketball player starred in a controversy among the left for daring to question the morals of LeBron James and woke celebrities for “[pretending] they care about social justice” while bowing to the demands of China’s communist regime, putting their economic interests ahead.
In fact, just a week before publishing his article, a contributing author wrote a column in The Atlantic accusing Kanter of “allowing himself to be used” by conservatives and showing “little regard” for the right to dissent.
“Criticizing prominent black athletes has turned [Kanter] Freedom into a media pillar and a new friend of the right,” Jemele Hill wrote in her article, going on to accuse the player of “empowering right-wingers who delight in silencing social justice advocates.”
Hill criticized Kanter for appearing on Fox News, for telling Tucker Carlson that America is the “greatest country in the world,” for attacking LeBron James and Michael Jordan on CNN, and said that “anyone with strong opinions will inevitably alienate people.”
Kanter’s response, however, did not fail to be a forceful one, despite his discretion. Without mentioning anyone this time, the athlete said that “celebrities, athletes and corporations continue to choose money over morals” and that, behind them, the authoritarians of the world grow stronger.
“Speaking for the victims of authoritarian violence has somehow become controversial, only because it might alienate the perpetrators,” Kanter quietly responded in his article. “Freedom is not about remaining silent in the face of a tyrannical dictatorship that commits genocide against Uighurs because you’d rather preserve your business.”
In the last lines, Kanter pledged to “make America and its freedom” a part of his own identity, which is why he took on the word Freedom as his second last name.
“I am overwhelmed with emotion just writing these words,” the athlete ends. “I, Enes Kanter Freedom, am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Tomás Lugo, journalist and writer. Born in Venezuela and graduated in Social Communication. Has written for international media outlets. Currently living in Colombia // Tomás Lugo, periodista y articulista. Nacido en Venezuela y graduado en Comunicación Social. Ha escrito para medios internacionales. Actualmente reside en Colombia.