Enes Kanter Freedom on the NBA's Relationship With China: 'We Have To Expose This'

“While we’re dribbling the ball on the other side of the ocean, people are losing their loved ones, lives, and hope,” says the former Celtics center.


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When should professional athletes feel morally obligated to put their careers, their safety, and their freedom on the line to speak out about political injustice?

A chance encounter with a fan inspired NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom to use his fame to speak out about the issues that matter most.

Raised in Turkey, Enes Kanter Freedom moved to the U.S. when he was 17 to play basketball, attending high school and college in the country, and was drafted by the Utah Jazz in 2011.

While posing for a photo with a fan, the fan's parents confronted Freedom. He recounted the incident to Reason:

"I took a picture with this kid. And while I was taking a picture, his parents called me out front of everybody."

The parents said to Freedom, "How can you call yourself a human rights activist when your Muslim brothers and sisters are getting tortured and raped every day in concentration camps in China?"

Since that incident, Freedom decided to speak out more about injustices worldwide. Freedom made headlines earlier this year for criticizing the NBA and its biggest stars for their business relationship with China, which has been accused of violating the civil rights of Turkic ethnic Muslims known as Uyghurs and forcing them into reeducation camps. In 2022, he was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Houston Rockets and then waived four days later.

Reason caught up with Freedom to talk about his early childhood, growing up in Turkey as a basketball prodigy, calls for his arrest, and what's driving his activism.

Produced by Noor Greene; camera by David Ehrenberg and Isaac Reese; production assistants: Adam Czarnecki and Regan Taylor; intro edited by Isaac Reese and Mike Koslap; interview edited by Adam Czarnecki

Music: Beyond by Anbr via Artlist

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