NBA player Enes Kanter, who is an outspoken critic on many human rights issues, became a US citizen Monday, legally changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom to celebrate his new status.
The Boston Celtics center told interviewers on Monday night that from this time onward, “Freedom” will be his last name, and Kanter will be his middle name, in deference to his parents.
He told interviewers from the Boston television station WCVB that while growing up in Turkey, he “never knew what freedom was.”
Enes Kanter Freedom outspoken critic on a range of human rights issues
Freedom explained to CNN that his new last name is what his Celtics teammates have been calling him all along, so it was time that he made it official.
“I’ve waited for this moment for like six years now, and it’s finally happened,” he told interviewers outside the courthouse where he was sworn in as a new citizen of the US. “It’s like a dream come true.”
WCVB said that the Turkish player explained that changing his last name means that he can now carry that word with him wherever he goes. “Here, people should feel blessed. You know, we have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press,” Freedom stated.
“I’m not scared of anybody. I’m not scared of China, Xi Jinping, anyone that I’m outspoken against, because I know that I’m doing this for innocent people. And this is God’s work.”
The name change for the veteran basketball player, who has railed against the leadership of his own country and China as well, was first reported by NBA columnists in The Athletic and The Stadium.
The 11-year veteran of the NBA has used not only his accounts on social media but specially-designed clothing as well to criticize China’s treatment of the Uyghur community and other pressing human rights issues across the world.
CNN reports that the US State Department believes as many as two million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities have been detained in internment camps in China’s western Xinjiang province just since 2017.
Kanter, who has also spoken out against China’s treatment of Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong, has also called for a boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
Unsurprisingly, Kanter’s comments were not popular with the Chinese government; Celtics games have been taken off Chinese video streaming sites and government officials have sharply criticized him.
On Wednesday, basketball fans will be able to see Enes Kanter Freedom’s new last name displayed across his jersey for the first time when the Celtics meet the 76’ers in Philadelphia.