The government of Turkey has put a $530,000 bounty on Enes Kanter Freedom, the pro-America former NBA star who has been an outspoken advocate of human rights.
The athlete, who was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, has been an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, prompting Ankara to brand him a “terrorist” and offer the reward for anyone who helps put him behind bars. Freedom has referred to the strongman as the “Hitler of our century.”
“Because of my platform, whenever I say something, it goes everywhere, and the Turkish government hates that,” Freedom told the New York Post. “They’re really sick of it, and they said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and doing whatever they can to shut me up.”
Former NBA player Enes Freedom is now a wanted “Terrorist” in Turkey for speaking out against the government and has a $500,000 bounty on his head 😳 pic.twitter.com/HFyD5NLxHG
— Daily Loud (@DailyLoud) January 13, 2023
In a separate interview, Freedom, who legally changed his name from Enes Kanter and became a U.S. citizen in 2021, said Ankara regularly puts the lives of dissidents in danger.
“I’m not the only one,” Freedom told the Turkish Minute. “There are so many innocent journalists, academics, athletes, activists, and educators on this list. Now their lives are in danger because of the Turkish government.”
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In addition to criticizing his homeland, Freedom has blasted the NBA for its close dealings with China. He has clashed with NBA superstar LeBron James, who has been highly critical of the U.S., particularly during the Trump administration, but has defended Beijing’s human rights record. Freedom’s supporters believe his willingness to call out the league is the reason the 30-year-old athlete has not been on a team for over a year.
In 2021, Freedom criticized James and others for staying silent on China, where Uyghur slaves are used to manufacture shoes and apparel, while they “pretend they care about social justice.”
“I don’t know if he’s educated enough, but I’m here to educate him and I’m here to help him because it’s not about money,” Freedom said. “It’s about morals, principles, and values. It’s about what you stand for. There are way bigger things than money. If LeBron stopped making money now, his grandkids and [their] grandkids and [their] grandkids can have the best life ever.”
Freedom has played 11 seasons in the NBA, with stints playing for the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Portland Trailblazers, and, most recently, the Boston Celtics in 2021-22. The six-foot, 10-inch center has averaged 11.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and earned over $100 million. He was the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft.
Freedom played for the Turkish national team from 2008-2015, but later became disillusioned with the country, which has become more authoritarian under Erdogan.
Freedom told the Post he fears the bounty will make him a target of anyone wishing to collect a fortune.
“That makes it so dangerous,” Freedom said. “Before the bounty, Turkish intelligence was after the people on the list, but now everyone is after them because they want the money.”