Credit: Dan Hamilton, USA TODAY Sports.
Boston Celtics and New York Knicks veteran Enes Kanter Freedom says his public protests of the Chinese government’s human rights abuses and the league’s dealings with them have led to him being blacklisted by the league and its 30 teams.
Enes Kanter Freedom, who added a third name after becoming a US citizen in November, has long been open about human rights issues in China. Especially when it comes to the continuing plight of those recognized there as Uyghurs.
Freedom is among several other NBA figures who have openly questioned the NBA’s proactive drive to expand its brand in China despite its persecution of Uyghurs. And in a new interview, the 11-year-old league veteran claims it’s hard for him to make the NBA roster because of his opinion and the Chinese government’s strong influence on the league.
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Boston Celtics veteran says NBA is run by ‘Chinese dictatorship’
“In my opinion, the NBA is the most hypocritical organization,” Freedom said. Outkick on Thursday. “So we need to keep pushing the NBA to stand up for what is right. The NBA is a 100 percent American-made organization run by the Chinese dictatorship. This is unacceptable. Someone, be it the Senate or other politicians, has to say enough is enough. And it’s not just the NBA. Chinese-controlled American institutions also include Hollywood and academia. Someone has to stop this.”
Enes Kanter Freedom played just 35 games for the Boston Celtics last season. In February, he was traded to the Houston Rockets and then released for cost reasons. While at first glance it might look like he might be a player in decline, two seasons ago he was averaging 11 points and 11 rebounds per game in a pivotal role for the Portland Trailblazers that made it to the NBA playoffs. Those numbers, he says, prove that at 30 he is still far from being a prolific league player and shows an unspoken agreement within the league to keep him out.
“Let me give you a very simple statistic, this is not rocket science: [in 2020-2021]“I played for the Portland Trail Blazers and averaged a double-double,” Freedom explained. “We are in the playoffs. And they tell me that after six months I forgot how to play basketball? Even the kids on the streets will laugh at the idea.
“I believe I could start in many cases right now, but because what I’m saying is financially damaging to the NBA, they wanted me kicked out of the league,” he continued. “It’s so easy. I just turned 30 and they’re pushing me to retire. I can easily play another six or seven years. But unfortunately with this league and these players in it, that doesn’t seem to be possible.
Freedom’s best season in the NBA came in 2014-2015 with the Oklahoma City Thunder, when he averaged 18.7 points and 11 rebounds per game. He was selected third overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2011 NBA draft and went on to play for the Thunder, Knicks, Trail Blazers, and Celtics.