tHe’s an NBA player Enes Freedom shows the danger of attracting the wrong kind of supporters.
The 29-year-old Boston Celtics center, formerly known as Ennis Kanter, earned a new nickname when he became an All-American on Monday. For months, he has been an outspoken critic of the Chinese government for its many human rights abuses — specifically its crackdown on Tibetans, Hong Kong democracy advocates, and the Uighurs, a Muslim minority, according to Amnesty International and widespread news reports. She was subjected to concentration camps, torture, and systematic efforts to erase her culture.
Freedom, himself a Muslim, has also called on the NBA to prioritize its business relationship with China over the rights of Uyghurs and others. It was an admirable and understandable position for Freedom, since he has first-hand experience with an authoritarian regime. Horriya was exiled from his native Turkey for speaking out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In 2018, Freedom’s father was sentenced to 15 years in prison for supporting a group Erdogan blames for an attempted coup, but those charges were eventually dropped.
In recent weeks, though, Freedom has focused on the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James — whose nickname, “King James,” alludes to his status as a prominent figure in professional basketball — for not being more vocal about China. “Money above morals for the sake of the King,” Freedom recently wrote on Twitter, as if making an accusation against China on his own should be James’s responsibility.
But the heavy criticism of James catapulted Freedom, a slick man who played for five different NBA franchises, to a new level of fame — at least among conservatives who resented James’s defense of black Americans and wary of his criticism of former President Donald Trump. A few years ago, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham insisted that instead of getting involved in American politics, basketball players should “shut up and dribble” — a demand James refused.
When Freedom speaks to his new supporters, he shows little interest in the right to political dissent in the United States. On Monday, Freedom appeared on Fox News Tucker Carlson tonight, whose namesake announcer eagerly asked Freedom if he was more grateful for his nationality than some of his American-born colleagues. The subtext of Carlson’s question was clear: Most NBA players are black, and Carlson often portrays people of color who seek political and social change as ungrateful and unpatriotic.
Freedom took the bait. He replied, “People should really feel blessed and lucky to be in America.” “They like to criticize it, but when you live in a country like Turkey or China or somewhere else, you will appreciate the freedoms you have here.” Then Freedom went even further. In a dramatic turn for someone who has suffered the consequences of political repression, he suggested that other players should “shut their mouths and stop criticizing the greatest country in the world, and focus on their freedoms, human rights and democracy.”
Carlson smiled and said, “That’s how I feel.”
FMake his redom James’ feelings for James became known before his team’s November 19 game against the Lakers. The Celtics center wore custom shoes bearing a picture of James being crowned by Xi Jinping, the Chinese Communist leader, while James stood next to bags of money. When Freedom a shoe image The day before, the comment came in part: “Sad and disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice…they really ‘shut up and dodge’ when [China] Say it.” Conservative broadcaster Dana Loach responded with several fire emojis. Donald Trump Jr., who recently called James a “bitch” on Instagram after two fans of the four-time NBA champ were removed for inappropriately harassing him, has replayed Twitter Post Freedom Freedom also received praise from Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
However, Freedom wasn’t quite as bold when it saw James in action. The two never spoke. Instead, Freedom saved his ire on Fox News. appear in American Newsroom With hosts Bill Heimer and Dana Perino on Tuesday, Freedom made his issue clear with James: “When you’re an athlete and you sign with hypocritical companies like Nike, and when China becomes your big boss, you obviously have to stay quiet. It’s just a shame.” Someone had to speak up, Freedom argued.
But if Freedom really wants to advance human rights and stop the oppression of Muslims, Tucker Carlson makes an odd ally. The Fox host has stirred up xenophobia and espoused the white supremacist “Great Replacement” theory, which claims that non-white immigrants from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East are being kept away from people of European descent. Even as Freedom judges James for the NBA’s appeasement of China, he himself made unsavory allies while trying to raise his profile.
Indeed, criticism of prominent black athletes has made Freedom a media mainstay and new friend of the right. on me CNN Newsroom wEth Pamela Brown Last week, he insisted, Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan “did nothing, nothing, for the black community in America other than, you know, give them money.”
In fact, Jordan has faced criticism during his playing days for not speaking out forcefully on issues affecting the black community, but belittling his financial contributions is a mistake. Jordan is a founding donor to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and last year pledged to donate $100 million to social justice causes over the next decade. And this is just an excerpt from his long list of charities.
Although anyone with strong views will inevitably alienate people, taking pictures of outstanding black athletes who have done important work on social justice will not help Freedom promote freedom. All it does is empower right-wingers who are happy to silence social justice advocates.
However, Freedom continued to attack James after practice in Boston on Tuesday. “Sure, I’d like to sit down and talk to you [James]He said freedom. “I’m sure it would be a very uncomfortable conversation for him. I don’t know if he wants to.” Sponsored Freedom added, “I don’t know if he’s educated enough, but I’m here to teach him, and I’m here to help him, because it’s not about the money. It’s about morals and principles and values. It’s about what you stand for. There are much bigger things than money. If LeBron would stop Making money now, his grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-grandchildren can enjoy the best life ever.”
Odds are, the conversation will never happen. James said after last week’s Lakers-Celtics game that the center forward is “definitely not someone I would give my energy to.”
But if a conversation happens between the two for some reason, it could be more upsetting for Freedom, who probably needs to be “educated” on how Carlson and others on the right can give him a platform just because he’s criticizing some of the country’s loudest black voices.
The onslaught of attention may have hurt his memory, but Freedom used to understand the need to protect everyone’s right to speak. Last summer, as protests were taking place around the world following the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, Freedom addressed the crowd at a Black Lives Matter rally in Boston. “First of all, I want to thank you all for what you are doing,” he said. “I really appreciate it. The second thing I want to say, man: We need change, and change can’t wait, you know?”
If Freedom is to maintain any credibility on issues of social justice and human rights, it cannot allow itself to be easily played by people who seek to undermine everything it claims to stand for.