The NBA’s commissioner has denied Enes Kanter Freedom’s claims that he is being blackballed by the league for speaking out against human rights abuses in China.
Adam Silver also called the basketball player’s comparison of his situation to that of Colin Kaepernick, who in November of 2017 filed a suit accusing NFL ownership of colluding not to sign him after he protested police brutality, ‘completely unfounded and unfair’.
In a New York Times report, Freedom also claimed the NBA union tried to silence his activism regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China, alleging that they wanted him to stop wearing shoes designed by political artist Badiucao at games.
Adam Silver (pictured) has denied Enes Kanter Freedom’s claims that he was being blackballed out by the league for speaking out against human rights abuses in China
Kanter, born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, has been an outspoken critic of Turkey and China, and last year legally changed his name to Freedom.
Silver told the Times: ‘We spoke directly about his activities this season and I made it absolutely clear to him that it was completely within his right to speak out on issues that he was passionate about.’
The commissioner added Freedom didn’t characterize the conversation between them correctly but wouldn’t go into specifics.
The league’s position on China had not changed, Silver also said, asking: ‘Why is the NBA being singled out as the one company that should now boycott China?’
In 2020 Silver had said the NBA could stand to lose as much as $400 million when Chinese business partners cut ties following Houston Rockets’ GM Daryl More’s comments in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, CNBC reported.
Speaking of the NBA’s suspending business activities in Russia, Silver said the move was ‘instituted’ by the US government.
In a New York Times report, Freedom (pictured) also claimed the NBA union tried to silence his activism regarding the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in China
Freedom told The New York Times: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why I got little playing time and was released.
‘But it does take people with a conscience to speak out and say it’s not right.’
Freedom is not in the league currently and hasn’t been signed by a team since being traded and cut in February, the Times reports.
Last month Freedom said President Joe Biden is not taking human rights seriously and claimed the White House had ignored his requests for meetings for fear it would alienate authoritarian regimes around the world.
In a podcast released as the Winter Olympics kicked off in Beijing, Freedom said leaders were falling short of the American ideals of democracy and liberty that he had learned about when growing up overseas.
He told One Decision podcast: ‘Unfortunately, you know, I feel like when it comes to the authoritarian regimes, sometimes they’re saying remain silent…like Turkey.’
Last November Freedom slammed Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James for his business ties to Nike and, by extension, China — a country accused of targeting its minority Uighur population and forcing citizens into slave labor camps.
Freedom told The New York Times: ‘It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why I got little playing time and was released’
‘Money over Morals for the ”King,”’ he tweeted, referencing James’s nickname. ‘Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice.
‘They really do ”shut up & dribble” when Big Boss [Chinese flag emoji] says so,’ Freedom continued. ‘Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research?’
The Lakers star previously said in 2019 that he needed to do more research before commenting on alleged human rights violations in China, where Nike has done business for decades.
Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem, in protest of police brutality, before an NFL football game in 2016
In Turkey, Freedom has been considered an enemy of the state since 2017, when he criticized president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the ‘Hitler of our century.’
In response, the country revoked his passport, imprisoned his father on terrorism charges for two years, and, through Interpol, attempted to arrange for the younger Kanter’s arrest.
He had earlier told CNN: ‘When I came to America, to me, it was so amazing because, here, there is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of press, which I didn’t have any of those with Turkey.
‘And freedom is the greatest thing a human being can have. So that’s why I wanted to make that word a part of me and carry it wherever I go.’