The US-based Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice announced Tuesday that it will honor activist and former NBA player Ines Kanter Freedom with the 2022 Lantos Human Rights Award.
The Lantos Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by the late Congressman Tom Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, to promote human rights and defend the core values of freedom and justice.
Freedom said he was honored and humbled to receive the award in recognition of his defense of human rights.
Dr. Katrina Lantos Sweet, President of the Lantos Foundation, said that freedom has enemies among the tyrants and dictators of the world, such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“In an age when professional athletes live in fear of saying the wrong thing and losing their coveted sponsor contracts or place on the roster, Mr. The fires of brutal regimes and cowardly sporting privileges.”
Adding that despite the fact that Freedom was at the beginning of his journey as a human rights defender, Sweet said he had already shown a degree of courage and conviction that few people possess.
In response, Freedom said that being awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize, which is awarded in memory of one of America’s greatest human rights leaders, prompted him to continue that advocacy, even if at a personal expense.
“I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of those who do not speak and who are being censored. I cannot – and will not – remain silent as long as I have a voice to speak up for those who suffer under brutal dictators or against those who are complicit in human rights abuses.
Freedom, who changed his name from Anis Kanter in November 2021, has since become a voice for the oppressed in China, Turkey and around the world.
In February 2022, he was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Houston Rockets, who immediately dropped him. Many suspect that the NBA is punishing him for speaking out against China and trying to silence him.
Freedom, who has lived primarily in the United States for more than a decade, has used his big podium as an international sports star to denounce Turkey’s drive toward authoritarianism under Erdogan over the past few years.
Turkish prosecutors are already seeking a four-year prison sentence for his alleged membership in the Gulen movement, a religious group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey revoked Freedom’s passport in 2017 and attempted to deport him from Romania on May 20, 2017 during one of his international flights. Romanian police confiscated his passport for a short period at the request of the Turkish government. The National Basketball Association said it worked with the State Department to secure his release in Romania.
Erdogan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdogan, members of his family and his inner circle.
Erdogan denied the investigations as a coup and a plot against his government by Gulen, classified it as a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. Erdogan intensified his crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on 15 July 2016 in which he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen strongly denies involvement in the failed coup or any terrorist activity.