NBA’s Enes Freedom Speaks up About China’s Human Rights Abuses, NBA Cancels Him.
Former Boston Celtics center player Enes Freedom was traded to the Houston Rockets Thursday, just hours before a deadline. The Houston Rockets immediately waived him, leaving him without a job.
Celtics management claims the trade was made to ‘balance payroll,’ but it’s obvious the team wanted to distance itself from Freedom’s activism.
Freedom made headlines last October when he described Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “dictator” and wore sneakers promoting Tibet’s fight for independence (click here to read my previous article on this topic).
The Chinese government responded by pulling coverage of Celtics games – a move that cost the NBA millions.
Freedom’s reassignment was conducted in a rush shortly after it was announced he would be speaking at the upcoming Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). In a statement, the NBA said it was not involved in the trade.
“The same group of woke activists that told us to ‘believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything,’ doesn’t want anything to do with @EnesFreedom, who actually lives that phrase every day,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr. “You can always tell the difference between the grifters & the real deal.”
Freedom “is as fierce a fighter for freedom & human rights as he is talented on the basketball court,” wrote Senator Rick Scott (R-FL). “The @NBA’s efforts to push Enes out are just the latest disgusting example of its cowardly appeasement toward Communist China.”
This week, Chinese state-run newspaper Global Times published an article in which journalist Wang Qui described Freedom as “ignorant and arrogant on China’s core interests and internal affairs” and as a “below-average player” who got what he deserved. “He didn’t focus on basketball as a player and lost his job,” continued Qui, and, quoting an anonymous Chinese sports commentator, added, “Chinese fans can expect to watch Boston’s games soon.”
Speaking to reporters, Freedom said he doesn’t expect to be re-signed. “So, recently, whenever I have a conversation with someone from the NBA or one of my ex-teammates, they’re like, ‘Listen, this is your farewell tour. Have fun with it, enjoy it, I hope you win a championship because I don’t think you’re going to sign another contract after this year.’”
Freedom, who has also criticized fellow players for accepting endorsement deals from companies that utilize Chinese labor (i.e. LeBron James and Nike), explained why he decided to speak up against China:
“I started to study more and more. I started with the Uighurs and then I saw what Tibet was going through, and what Hong Kong and Taiwan and Mongolians are going through. It broke my heart…And I’m, like, ‘It doesn’t matter what it costs. I have to bring awareness of what’s going on.’”
Enes Freedom is a Turkish national, born in Switzerland, who lost his Turkish citizenship in 2020 for criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He changed his last name from “Kanter” to “Freedom” in November when he earned his US citizenship.
Author’s Note: In cancelling Enes Freedom, the NBA is essentially saying that money is more important than human rights. That’s not a great message to send to all the young men and women who admire the association and its players. GOP lawmakers are expected to investigation the NBA’s lucrative relationship with China if they retake congressional majority later this year.