NBA star and human rights activist Enes Freedom spoke on stage at LibertyCon International 2022 in Miami on Saturday evening with Reason magazine editor-at-large Matt Welch about government abuses in China, lack of personal freedoms in Turkey, and LeBron James.
“The season that began 2 years ago, Enes Kanter played all 72 games, started half of them, averaged a double double meaning double digits in points and rebounds,” began Welch at the start of the Students For Liberty event.“ He had the second most offensive rebounds in the NBA.” This begs the question of why Freedom is not playing for a team this season.
Freedom told the audience a personal story about seeing a teammate post on his social media account attacking the president of the US. It shocked him, thinking his friend would be arrested the very next day for doing so. This was when his teammates laughed and explained to him that “this isn’t Turkey, this is America, where we have freedom of speech.” This inspired him to speak out.
“The last ten years, I started talking about the problems in Turkey, and the NBA was really, really supportive,” Freedom responded. In doing so, Freedom has isolated himself from his family whom he is no longer allowed to communicate with. He hasn’t spoken to his parents in years. The government of Turkey even declared Freedom a terrorist in his home country.
It was almost a decade later at a children’s basketball camp event that someone asked him why he is ignoring other atrocities around the world, including the brutal treatment of the Uyghur Muslims locked in concentration camps at the hands of the Chinese government.
“I cannot believe that in the last ten years, I only focused on one dictatorship.” Freedom then began speaking out in defense of the millions of Uyghur Muslims in China, calling out the NBA and Nike for being willing to do business with a country that “tortures” and “rapes” its own citizens in prison camps.
“Enough is enough, I was seeing the hypocrisy of the NBA.” Freedom continued stating that he enjoyed his freedom to call out human rights atrocities elsewhere in the world, but “when it comes to one specific country, China, they are silent.”
“The more I studied about the Uyghurs, Mongolians, and Tibetans and their oppression in China I realized that everyone was silent, but I had to open the door to conversation.”
“The reason I called out LeBron James is that – he’s not the only one. You see, there are so many Nike athletes out there… many who wanted to become more than just an athlete, [they] want to advocate for social justice, but you cannot be a human rights activist and sign with a company who uses slave labor.”
In a more lighthearted moment, he said that “LeBron James is a great player on the court, you’ve got to love him…he’s not the GOAT though!” which got a cheer from the crowd, many who were Miami natives.
Freedom continued to call out Nike further, stating that “In America, Nike supports Black Lives Matter, the LGBTQ community, No Asian Hate, the Latino Community – and it’s beautiful. But when it comes to China – nothing. Nothing. Because they know the money that they could lose.”
“The players association, who I pay thousands of dollars to every month, they were the ones pressuring me to be silent the most.” Freedom explained that since he began speaking out against China, he has received many death threats, had to move several times, and increased his personal security.
After his interview, Freedom was kind enough to sign autographs and take photos with the student members of Students For Liberty, many who traveled from Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America to attend the conference.
The entire Enes Freedom interview can be viewed here on the SFL Learn Liberty platform on YouTube.
Brian S. Lambrecht / Students For Liberty