In a captivating tête-à-tête interview with Enes Kanter, the towering figure in the NBA realm and a staunch defender of human rights, I was privy to a transformative chapter of his life. At that time, he was playing for the Portland Trail Blazers while fearlessly expressing his disapproval of Turkish President Erdogan’s policies. Kanter was counting months to the long-awaited American citizenship, a beacon of freedom and belonging in his adopted home.The land of the free, with its arms wide open, was smiling at him.

Flash forward through the hourglass, and we find ourselves in the year 2023. In the meantime, the sports luminary has changed his last name to Enes Kanter “Freedom,” symbolizing his newfound identity as a proud American citizen. The question arises: What has changed, if anything, in his pursuit of human rights activism over the past few years?

“I can only go to twenty nine countries in the world, but whenever I go outside of the country, I feel more secure now because I am an American citizen. I have a US passport,” said Freedom. Having a little bit of peace of mind made him stop worrying for a brief moment that Turkey could use the Interpol system to arrest him for speaking out against the Erdogan’s regime. “I think that was the biggest change for me,” Enes Freedom reflected.

The decision to alter his surname to Freedom and keep Kanter as his middle name, he revealed, has brought forth a deeper sense of identity for the athlete. The reason he wanted to change the name was to “bring awareness” and make the word ‘freedom’ part of him.  “Sometimes we can forget how important freedom is for human beings. I wanted to make it part of me and literally inspire everyone who ever talked to me.”

Freedom’s long-standing criticism of Turkish President Recep Erdogan remains a recurring motif in all of his public appearances. Unyielding in his quest for a democratic alternative to the Turkish leader, Freedom has fearlessly voiced his dissent, even as the tides of fate defied expectations and propelled Erdogan to another term in office.

Erdogan literally leads the country like a mafia leader, and all these people around them are just his henchmen.

Enes Kanter Freedom

As global attention turned to the formation of a new government after the Turkish elections, all eyes were on President Erdogan’s choice for the crucial role of Foreign Minister.

Hakan Fidan, who has headed the Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) since 2010, has emerged as the key figure in Turkish diplomatic circles. It is no secret that Fidan, the former spy chief, has faced repeated accusations of orchestrating illegal abductions of dissenting voices.  Against this backdrop, Enes Kanter Freedom shared his thoughts on Erdogan’s choice for the Turkish Foreign Minister.

“After the elections in Turkey, there were so many videos the opposition leaders were putting out alleging that Erdogan was cheating. I was listening to some of the interviews of those opposition leaders, and many people saying that the reason Erdogan didn’t win in the first round and went for a run-off was so that he could just manipulate everyone and say, well, there’s democracy in a country,“ said Enes Kanter Freedom.

“That was the only reason that he didn’t win in the first round of election because he was cheating. It was not a fair or free election because he was blocking the international observers,” he added.

President Erdogan [ Photo ©Paul Morigi Photography ]

Unhesitant in his role as a basketball luminary turned human rights advocate, Enes Freedom directed his unyielding critique towards Erdogan’s pick of cabinet members, particularly singling out the appointment of Hakan Fidan as the nation’s Foreign Minister.

“When it comes to the Erdogan’s Cabinet, many of those people are literally criminals,” asserted Freedom. “Starting with Hakan Fidan, he was the head of the Turkish intelligence service, and there were so many crimes that he had committed. He’s literally abducted people all around the world. This is illegal, and now he’s the foreign minister of Turkey.” 

He continued, “People should not feel secure because Fidan’s gonna do whatever he can to keep abducting people. Unfortunately, it’s very sad because when I look at the Cabinet, many of them are kind of criminals because I believe that Erdogan literally leads the country like a mafia leader, and all these people around them are just his henchmen.”

Enes Freedom, despite being a US citizen, harbors profound apprehension for his personal safety. The unsettling revelation of a bounty, issued by none other than President Erdogan and the Turkish government, serves as a chilling testament to the dangers that lurk within the shadows. Freedom is currently included on Turkey’s 2023 most-wanted terrorists list, further accentuating the gravity of the situation.

“I talk about human rights violations of political prisoners, and that led them to put a bounty on my head,” said Freedom. However, he emphasized that he is not the sole individual on the “most-wanted” list.

“There are so many innocent people—so many lawyers, doctors, teachers— on their list. Now they have a bounty on their heads.” Freedom underscored that “Not everyone is an American citizen, and not everyone lives in America. There are so many people living outside of America that are on that list, and their lives are in danger just because of the bounty on their heads. It’s very absurd. It’s very crazy to me to see how a foreign government can place a bounty on US citizens’ heads on US soil.”

Biden administration is scared to meet with me.

Enes Kanter Freedom

The outspoken advocate against human rights violations revealed that, to date, no representative from the Biden administration has reached out to him in response to the Turkish government’s audacious proposition of a reward for an American citizen and renowned basketball figure. This lack of outreach left him with a profound sense of disappointment and the urgent need for action to address this troubling situation.

“I have been trying to get in touch with the Biden administration because this is something really serious. The FBI is involved, and so many intelligence agencies around the world are involved in this. They’re trying to protect these innocent people,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, the Biden administration or anyone that works for him in the White House is scared to meet with me or even have a conversation with me. Because Turkey is a NATO ally, and they know that the White House meeting with me is going to pretty much piss off Erdogan. That’s why they do not want to make him mad. That’s why they are scared to meet with me,” said Freedom.

In his interactions with senators and congressmen, he revealed that they themselves have conveyed this to him.

“Actually, when I sit down with many senators and congressmen, they are the ones that tell me that, ‘Unfortunately, Biden or his administration is not going to meet with you because they do not want to make Erdogan mad.’ Because of NATO, because of Sweden and Finland, because there is an American airbase in Turkey and stuff. That just blows my mind because how can the most powerful man in the world be scared to meet with a 30-year-old NBA player?” Freedom voiced with a blend of disbelief and dismay.

When asked if he had attempted to request a formal meeting with President Biden or Secretary Blinken, Enes Freedom revealed, “Since the day they took office, we have been trying to meet with them [Blinken and Biden], but unfortunately, we keep getting declined,” revealed Enes Freedom. He further emphasized that 35 members of Congress had written a public letter to President Biden, urging him to sit down and have a brief conversation with Freedom. “They did not even get a response back,” revealed Freedom.

Mr. Kanter Freedom is a law-abiding UA citizen who has been outspoken about human rights across the world. The Turkish government has not provided evidence that Kanter Freedom has engaged in any illicit action, supported terrorism, or used violence against the Turkish state. It seems clear that Mr. Kanter Freedom is being targeted by Turkey for exercising his fundamental rights in expressing political opinions, which are protected under the US Constitutionthe members of the Republican Study Committee stated in their letter to Biden. 

Although the aforementioned letter was signed exclusively by Republican Party members of Congress, Freedom emphasized that numerous other letters, including those from Democratic Party members, were sent to the State Department and Secretary Blinken. However, according to Freedom, “none of them gets any kind of response because they are all scared.”

During an interview with The Pavlovic Today in 2021, Enes Freedom expressed his initial hope in President Biden to “save” Turkey from Erdogan’s grip. When asked if President Biden had let him down, Freedom responded, “Yes, he definitely did.” 

He underscored his steadfast commitment to non-partisanship, clarifying that he had never entangled himself in the realm of party politics. As a recent US citizen who had never cast a vote before, his singular focus remained on championing human rights, emphasizing the non-partisan nature of the issues at stake.

“Before Biden took office, he was talking about ‘We are going to prioritize human rights. We are going to have a sit-down and have a conversation with Erdogan.’ Actually, there are a lot of videos out there of Biden saying that, but since the day he took office, he has not done anything about Turkey or Erdogan,” noted Freedom. “Biden did not only let me down. Biden has let down so many people in Turkey and all around the world.”

Freedom: Biden can make one phone call to President Erdogan

Enes Freedom revealed that he is currently under the protection of the FBI.  In their guidance to him, the FBI advised Freedom to stay within the United States for the coming months, an advice he has diligently followed.

Detailing his interaction with the FBI, Freedom disclosed, “I did have a conversation with the FBI, and they did say, you know, if you stay in America, we can protect you, and we are going to make sure that you are secure. But if you leave outside of America, we cannot promise you that we can protect you because it’s outside America.” He revealed that he maintains regular contact with the FBI, with check-ins occurring approximately once a week or once every two weeks. According to Freedom, the FBI agents constantly inquired about his well-being and even offered to deploy a SWAT team to his residence to ensure his safety in the event of a hostage situation. 

“They wanted to see all the death threats that I get on my phone daily, throughout social media or WhatsApp, or DMs or text messages and stuff. So, they have been making sure that I’m doing okay,” he said. 

Biden did not only let me down. Biden has let down so many people in Turkey and all around the world.

Enes Kanter Freedom

In the absence of diplomatic and political initiatives within the ranks of the Biden administration, the bounty on Enes Freedom’s life remains in effect. Freedom holds the belief that President Biden and Secretary Blinken have the ability to take action to resolve this matter.

“I mean, this is the President of the United States. He can make one phone call to President Erdogan. Forget about Biden, anyone from his Cabinet makes a one phone call to Erdogan or his cabinet and this bounty is off,” Freedom shared his expectations for the Biden administration to prioritize human rights and the safety of the US citizens. “But they’re not doing it because they are scared that Erdogan might get mad and do something crazy, you know? So it’s very sad to see that Biden or his cabinet are going through this but it is what it is.”

President Joe Biden attends a bilateral meeting with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey during the NATO Summit, Wednesday, June 29, 2022, at IFEMA Madrid in Madrid. (Photo: Adam Schultz)

Enes Freedom’s personal life continues to bear the weight of significant challenges, even with the protection by law enforcement agencies. He candidly revealed that he has been separated for nearly a decade from his family who still lives in Turkey.

“I haven’t seen my family for almost ten years now,” he said, his voice getting softer. “Whenever I leave America it is always in the back of my head that Interpol is gonna get me. If some crazy lone wolf can do something,” he said. “ I just hope that the Biden administration can be tougher on some of the dictatorships out there.”

Enes Kanter Freedom: Speaker McCarthy has empathy and sympathy

In a notable event this year, Enes Kanter Freedom was invited as a guest of Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the State of the Union. While the story garnered attention from various media outlets, there were aspects of this moment that went unnoticed. I inquired about the deeper impact of this experience on Freedom.

“It was amazing. It was my first time going into the State of the Union and then being the guest of the Speaker. It was an unbelievable experience, sitting down and seeing the whole Congress and Senate and the Cabinet and the President speak,” he said.

Kevin McCarthy is actually a really good friend. Whenever I go through something, I have his number, so I text him. He texts me back. We have conversations.

Enes Kanter Freedom

Speaker McCarthy spoke highly of Enes Kanter Freedom, emphasizing his love for America and profound understanding of freedom. Freedom disclosed that their friendship predates McCarthy’s tenure as the Speaker of the House, highlighting a longstanding bond between the two men. Enes Freedom, in his own words, portrayed Speaker Kevin McCarthy as more than a political ally but as a close and trusted friend. 

“Kevin McCarthy is actually a really good friend. Whenever I go through something, I have his number, so I text him. He texts me back. We have conversations and stuff,” Freedom described the Speaker as a person whom he can turn to in times of need. ”And when he texted me, ‘I want you to be my guest at the State of the Union,’ I was pretty honored, actually. So having a speaker like McCarthy definitely is a blessing for me and for America.”

According to Enes Freedom, the fundamental bond between him and Speaker McCarthy lies in their friendship’s human aspect. Freedom expressed that the California Republican has genuine care for the American people and his country is at the core of their connection.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Enes Kanter Freedom
Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Enes Kanter Freedom [ Photo ©Twitter/Enes Freedom]

“Before everything, McCarthy cares,” he said of the Speaker. “He’s doing what he’s doing because he cares about American people. McCarthy cares about his country and he cares about people,” Freedom added. “Once you’re in American politics, no matter what you will get criticized. But as a friend, I know that he cares. And that is the most important thing. He’s not doing his job for clout. He’s not doing his job to be more famous. He’s doing what he’s doing because he deeply cares about the issues and he wants to make America better. Kevin McCarthy has empathy and sympathy.”

Enes Freedom has also had the opportunity to meet with Senator Bob Menendez, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Freedom spoke highly of Democratic Senator, describing him as a genuinely “good person” who is aware of his story and the challenges he has faced. “He knows what I’ve gone through. And he’s trying to show me his best support,” said Freedom. However, he acknowledged that when the Biden administration is “not willing to take any kind of action, it is hard for any kind of Senator to do something.” 

Freedom: Don’t just talk about it, be about it

When asked about whether he feels that Republicans have a better understanding or sensitivity towards his situation, Enes Freedom acknowledged that some members of the Republican party have shown more support and assistance. “Some, yes, for sure,” he said. “I am in touch with both parties because this is a nonpartisan issue. But yes, some party people definitely help me more than the others.”

Enes Freedom was invited as a guest to the Republican Study Committee lunch that occurred in the first week of June. Reflecting on the interaction, Freedom recounted, “We had lunch, and at the end, they wanted me to get up and literally speak to everyone.”

Enes  Kanter Freedom with the members of the Republican Study Committee
Enes Kanter Freedom with the members of the Republican Study Committee [ Photo © Republican Study Committee]

Senators in attendance engaged Freedom with inquiries about his expectations and how they could assist him. Freedom drew a parallel to his basketball days, remarking, “When I was in a locker room, when I would play basketball, I remember the players, we were always saying, ‘Okay, let’s go out there and let’s play hard. Let’s play smart. Let’s have fun.’ And then the coach would come in and say, ‘Don’t just talk about it, be about it.'”

During his address to the Senators at the Republican Study Committee lunch, Enes Freedom stressed the significance of speaking up and utilizing social media to raise awareness and exert pressure on governments. However, he emphasized that action should not be limited to words alone. “Let’s not only just talk about it, let’s be about it. So let’s just come up with ideas. Let’s come up with bills to help people over there. I told them to reach out to our friends on the other side of the political aisle, too. I was talking about Democrats because I told them this is not a partisan issue,” he revealed.

If Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act gets votes, it’s gonna go to the Senate, and then after that, it’s gonna go to President Biden, and if he signs it, then it’s gonna become the law.

Enes Kanter Freedom

Freedom expressed his gratitude for the warm reception at the Senate he received, stating, “It was amazing. Senators were just asking me questions about what do you want from us? What can we do to help you?” He recounted that after the lunch, he had one-on-one conversations with many of the Senators who assured him of their support, saying, “Listen, whatever you’re doing, we got your back.” 

Looking ahead, Freedom anticipates that the crucial changes he seeks will occur on the House and Senate floor. He revealed plans to introduce the Turkey Human Rights Bill, officially named the Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act, within the next two weeks. The bill aims to address the human rights violations faced by political prisoners in Turkey and calls for the imposition of sanctions on individuals responsible for such abuses.

Senator Ed Markey, Enes Kanter Freedom, Senator Wyden
From left to right: Senator Ed Markey, Enes Kanter Freedom, Senator Wyden ( Photo: Courtesy of Enes Kanter Freedom)

“If it gets votes, it’s gonna go to the Senate, and then after that, it’s gonna go to President Biden, and if he signs it, then it’s gonna become the law,” Freedom explained, outlining the legislative process. On the Senate side, Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) are sponsoring the bill. In the House of Representatives, Freedom believes that Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) will be involved in sponsoring the bill. 

Freedom: NBA will care about free speech until it hits their pockets

Enes Kanter Freedom recently experienced a fallout with the NBA, and he believes that the league attempted to silence him for exercising his freedom of expression against the Chinese government. According to Freedom, the NBA’s motivation for silencing him lies in the significant financial stakes involved in its relationship with China.

“The reason they’re trying to silence me is because between the NBA and China, there are billions of dollars of contracts and business,” Freedom asserted. “Anyone who speaks up against the Chinese government, the NBA is going to try to silence. And that’s what happened to me.”

In his case, speaking out about the issues in China resulted in his dismissal from the league, despite being a healthy and capable 30-year-old player. While acknowledging his love for basketball and his intention not to offend fellow players, Freedom expressed confidence in his skills, stating, “There are so many players in the league. I don’t want to offend them, but I’m way better than them.” He added, “Just because I talk about the problems that are happening in China, obviously, the NBA released me and now I don’t have a job.”

Anyone who speaks up against the Chinese government, the NBA is going to try to silence.

Enes Kanter Freedom

Freedom questioned why an athlete could freely criticize the United States by kneeling during the national anthem, while speaking out against China was not tolerated. “The NBA will care about free speech until it hits their pockets. As soon as the things that you talk about affect their money in business, they’re gonna do whatever they can to silence you. That’s why I’m not playing basketball. I mean, we have this investigation and actually saw on the internet that we found out 40 NBA owners got tied up to $10 billion in China.”

Enes Kanter  Freedom's shoes with "Modern Day Slavery" inscription.
Enes Kanter Freedom’s shoes with “Modern Day Slavery” inscription. [ Photo: Enes Freedom’s private photo collection]

According to Freedom, the number of viewers for NBA games in China surpassed the entire American population last year. He believes the special interest was undeniable, stating, “because there are so many people over there, shoe sales, jersey sales, TV deals, endorsement deals. It’s the biggest market for the NBA.”

The episode in which Enes Freedom accused LeBron James of being a “hypocrite” for his social activism has been well documented. Delving further, I inquired whether hypocrisy profoundly impacts Freedom and serves as a driving force for his outspokenness. Does he prioritize consistency as a core value in his life and activism?

“When someone calls themselves a social justice warrior or human rights activist, you know, human is human; you have to care about everyone. They cannot speak about some other things because they know that it’s not going to affect their business, but when the things that they talk about hit their pocket, they’re going to be silenced. I have to call them out for it.”

In Freedom’s perspective, his mission extends beyond the confines of the NBA.

“While we are playing basketball here in America, on the other side of the world, people are suffering, people are getting tortured and raped every day.”

Curious about his motivation, I asked Freedom, “Why do you care?”

He responded, emphasizing his humanity, compassion, and concern for others, stating,”I care because I’m a human. I have a heart and I have empathy and sympathy for people,” he said.  “While we are talking right now, there is a genocide happening in China. And look at Nike, the biggest sponsor of the NBA, and they use slave labor. And in America, they talk about social justice, but in China, they use sweatshops. That doesn’t make sense,” he said.

I had a conversation with my manager, and he said the things that you’re talking about are going to cost you close to $50 million.

Enes Kanter Freedom

Modern-day slavery, a pervasive issue not limited to China, serves as a subject that ignites Freedom’s advocacy. What propels him to speak out against modern-day slavery is a combination of moral conviction and a quest for justice.

“There are kids right now in China, and not only China, but also some of the other countries in the world, between 7 to 16 years old, who work 16 hours a day, six times a week. This is unacceptable. Those kids should be going to school, getting educated, and having fun. Instead, those kids are suffering in very terrible conditions. So that’s why I care,” he said. “I have a brother. I have a sister, and I wouldn’t want my family to go through what they’re going through. So that’s why I care about those things.”

People who know the young maverick, including political actors, like to say that Enes Freedom is someone who stands up for what is right “no matter the consequences.” However, it appears that very little is talked about the consequences he is going through on a day-to-day basis in pursuit of human rights activism. “Let’s talk about the consequences,” I proposed to Freedom.

Freedom paused, taking a moment to reflect before responding. “I had a conversation with my manager, and he said the things that you’re talking about are going to cost you close to $50 million. With $40 million NBA contracts, $5 million endorsement deals, and some of the businesses that you can do, it’s going to cost you close to $50 million. That’s one consequence. But there’s more,“ said Kanter Freed. “But there’s more, “ he continued. “Everyone keeps talking about money and basketball, but I haven’t seen my family for almost 10 years now. Family is like the most important thing, more important than money, more important than basketball, NBA. So it does come with a lot of consequences,” he added. Regardless, Enes Freedom seemed to have accepted that this is now his life. “This is God’s work. I’m trying to do the best I can to do God’s work.”

Because of the NBA’s stance towards his human rights activism and the fact that, due to the Erdogan’s bounty placed on his head, he “cannot go to Europe because of China,” Enes Freedom’s basketball career has been put on hold. He expressed a sense of longing for the sport when asked about it, saying, “Of course, I miss playing basketball.” However, in light of these circumstances, the young Freedom is exploring alternative career paths.

Enes Freedom Kanter: Elon Musk is going to have a lot of blood on his hands

Elon Musk
Elon Musk [ Photo: Thomas Hawk ]

Enes Freedom has a vision of running for a political office in the next four years, potentially in 2028. Education is a domestic issue that he feels passionately about, considering it as a key priority.  “A lot of the problems are happening in our world because of uneducated people. So education is definitely going to be my number one priority.”

Elon Musk, right before the Turkish election, was working with the Turkish government, and this is a fact.

Enes Kanter Freedom

Free speech, Enes is certain will remain on his agenda. Recently, he expressed his disappointment in Elon Musk, a self styled free speech absolutist.

“I don’t want to hear about Elon Musk talking about free speech ever again,” Freedom recently expressed his disdain for Elon Musk.  When questioned about the reasons behind his criticism of Musk, Freedom proceeded to clarify his perspective.

“Elon Musk, right before the Turkish election, was working with the Turkish government, and this is a fact,” said Freedom. “The Turkish government put pressure on Elon to ban some of the journalists out there. And Elon did it right before the election, and those journalists were really important for the election. Their accounts are banned because those journalists were exposing all the cheating and how Erdogan was trying to steal votes and everything. And now Erdogan is president again, and he’s going to continue to torture people. Elon Musk is going to have a lot of blood on his hands now just because he was working with a dictatorship.”

Enes Kanter Freedom: I miss and love my parents

In the fervent pursuit of human rights activism, Enes Kanter Freedom, unwavering in his resolve, perseveres amidst a backdrop of sacrifices and the perpetual watchful eye of the FBI who guards his life.

“What does freedom truly mean to you?” I asked. His eyes lit up with excitement. For a fleeting moment, he absorbed the weight of the query. 

Enes Kanter Freedom

“Freedom means everything to me,” he responded. “You have to make some sacrifices. I give up so much to achieve that freedom, not only for myself, but for people around the world,” he added. Freedom acknowledged that he is willing to continue making sacrifices because the value of freedom “surpasses anything else.”

Freedom means everything to me.

Enes Kanter Freedom

Reflecting on his legacy, Enes Kanter Freedom, driven by his relentless pursuit of liberty, expressed his aspiration to be remembered as a resolute individual who spared no effort. 

“The only thing that I want people to say about me is that he is someone who tried,” he stated.  His dreams and aspirations rest on the conviction that, one day, the triumph of freedom will usher in the downfall of all despotic regimes. Undeterred by the pressure exerted by autocratic forces, Freedom urged others to persevere.

 “We have to go for it. We cannot give up just because of those dictatorships and dictators putting pressure on us. So I want people to say that he tried, not only for himself but for everyone around the world.”

As our conversation neared its conclusion, the delicate matter of his parents with whom has had no contact nor laid eyes upon, once again resurfaced. To them, Enes Kanter Freedom conveyed a poignant message. With heartfelt simplicity, he uttered, “I think the one thing that I will tell my parents is that I miss them and I love them.” 


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