Former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom once found himself boxed out of the Association for wearing shoes that said “Free Tibet” to a game in 2021. On Tuesday, the 31-year-old told Congress on Tuesday that he lost approximately $50 million in potential salary and endorsements since his very public condemnation of China.
Enes Kanter Freedom: "We cannot just let in these 100 percent American made companies bowing down to the biggest dictatorship in the world, China." @EnesFreedom @JohnHuddyTV pic.twitter.com/5em4BcVps1
— NEWSMAX (@NEWSMAX) July 11, 2023
The 6’10” star, whose parents are Turkish, was born as Enes Kanter in Switzerland and officially became a United States citizen in late 2021. He celebrated his new status with a new name — legally changing it to Enes Kanter Freedom. At the time, he was a member of the Celtics, and his embrace of America was applauded and celebrated by the NBA.
“I have waited for this moment for six years now,” he told NBC 10 in Boston at the time. “And no it’s just like a dream come true… America has taught me so much. Here? People should feel blessed.”
Kanter Freedom was invited to testify before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, chaired by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), called “Corporate Complicity: Subsidizing the PRC’s Human Rights Violations”. The proceedings also featured statements from Shi Menglei, the wife of Chinese political prisoner Cheng Yuan and Homeland Security official Robert Silvers, along with several other experts on the topic.
In the meantime, the NBA has practically bent over backwards to appease the Chinese government, as they continue to look for more ways to tap into a market of about 1.5 billion people. What began in the David Stern era and the drafting of Yao Ming has morphed into the League’s push to further globalize the game. And while European players may be dominating the court, it’s Chinese dollars that are leading the fast break financially.
Kanter Freedom has not only expressed his support for Tibet and Taiwan, but also for the overall human rights violations that take place within China itself. It’s a quandary that torments not only the NBA but every major corporation in North America: How do they justify profiting off the pain of the people?
In Enes Kanter Freedom’s mind? You can’t. And it really shouldn’t even be up for debate.
“We cannot just let in these 100 percent American-made companies bowing down to the biggest dictatorship in the world, China,” he told the Committee. Then, he discussed how he was unceremoniously frozen out by teams, and even some of his fellow players like Lebron James.
“My career ended in a very brutal way,” he said in written testimony. “According to my manager, I lost around 50 million dollars, with all the NBA contracts and endorsement deals that I could’ve signed.”
In his 13-year career, Kanter Freedom was a very solid post player, averaging 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds in 748 regular season games. He was selected as the third overall pick of the 2011 NBA draft by the Utah Jazz.