Enes Kanter Freedom: 'The Turkish regime tried to kidnap me'

2022-08-03 15:07
Credit: Barney Ardov
Credit Barney Ardov

As previously announced, Enes Kanter Freedom was hosting a basketball camp in Jerusalem for kids of various upbringings and different religions in hopes to bring them together through basketball.

While in Israel, Kanter Freedom sat down with Arale Weisberg from Walla Sport to talk about his life as an activist and current NBA free agent.

"I knew in advance that I would pay this price, and I regret nothing. These things are bigger than me, bigger than the NBA, and bigger than basketball," Kanter Freedom started off the interview. "While I dribble in America, people are being killed all over the world or imprisoned and tortured in prisons. If this is the sacrifice I have to make, I'm ready to live with it."

The player is a civic activist who rose to public attention with his opposition to the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Recently, he was publicly opposed to NBA's relationship with China due to the way the country treats the Uyghur minority. He believes it to be the main reason for him now being a part of any NBA team after getting released.

"Of course, I'm scared," he said. "I get threats on my life two or three times a week. I walk around with bodyguards all the time. Everywhere I go, the intelligence services go on alert, even in America with the FBI."

"The people closest to me paid a terrible price. My dad was in jail, my brother was kicked out of the team he played in, my sister went to medical school and can't find a job," Kanter Freedom explained. "The authorities said they would leave them, but that's not true. They forced them to issue a statement disowning me and took the electrical appliances out of their house. They even took their passports, so they can't leave Turkey either."

Besides his family, Kanter Freedom himself had to endure various things in life since declaring his stance besides threats online. Kidnapping was one of them.

"The Turkish regime tried to kidnap me five years ago in Indonesia," he remembered. "I held a basketball camp there, and luckily, we heard about it early enough. I went to the hotel, went to sleep, and at 2:30 in the morning my principal called and said that people came to the school where the camp was held and were looking for me."

"I wanted to stay, because there was training the next day, but he insisted that we escaped," the player continued. "We went to Singapore, and then they told me that I was very lucky, because these were Turkish intelligence officers who wanted to take me back to Turkey."

However, the story doesn't end here. Only fortunate circumstances allowed Kanter Freedom to return home safely at that time.

"From there we flew to Romania, and they did not let me enter the country. It was my birthday. The lady at passport control looked, checked and said my passport was cancelled," the player told.

"The policeman who was looking at us was a basketball fan, and he recognized me. He told me 'You have two hours to leave, or you will have to go back to Turkey'. I knew if that happened, I would be locked up for the rest of my life," the former Celtic remembered.

Kanter Freedom is currently a free agent in the NBA. He started the season as a member of the Boston Celtics but then was traded to the Houston Rockets in a package centered around Daniel Theis.

On February 14th, the Rockets waived Kanter Freedom, and the center hasn't been picked up by any team since.

"I'm 30 years old. I can play another five or six years, and I don't intend to retire," Kanter said. "I can't go back to Turkey, it's a one-way ticket."

The player doesn't seem to believe that he can return to the EuroLeague either.

"Don't forget that I can't enter Turkey and that Turkish Airlines runs the Euroleague," he told Walla Sport.

Kanter Freedom believes that if not the Turkish clubs, Anadolu Efes Istanbul and Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, then the title sponsor itself would prevent him from playing at the highest level of European basketball. "They are investing so much money, so yes, I believe they will do it," he said.

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