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Enes Kanter Freedom will receive the second Hardwired for Freedom Award, an award for defending human rights off the pitch of the NBA player around the world.
“It is a tremendous honor to receive this award, especially given Hardwired Global’s position in the human rights community,” Freedom told Fox News Digital.
The Freedom award comes after years of advocating human rights, a personal mission that has often left him at odds with the NBA and league champions. Freedom grew up in Turkey after being born to Turkish parents in Switzerland, moving to the United States when he was a teenager. He was drafted 3rd overall in the 2011 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz, but soon his career would be defined more by what he did off the court than on it.
Freedom, who was born Enes Kanter but changed his last name to Enes Kanter Freedom when he obtained US citizenship last year, began speaking out against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2013. In 2016, he went to Twitter for to call Erdoğan, who has long faced allegations of human rights violations by international observers, “the Hitler of our century”. His support for a failed coup attempt that same year led to him being disowned by his family, who encouraged him to change his surname.
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The Turkish government issued an arrest warrant for Freedom in 2017 due to his membership in the Islamist movement Hizmet, eventually revoking his citizenship in the same year when he failed to appear in Turkish courts. The move left him stateless and fearful of traveling overseas, once refusing to take a 2019 trip with the New York Knicks out of fears of his safety.
A 2019 ESPN story detailed the dangers of Freedom’s outspokenness, reporting that the FBI had equipped the NBA player with a device that allows him to alert nearby agents in the event of an emergency due to credible threats to his life.
But Freedom’s defense was not limited to Turkey. He expressed support for the Free Tibet movement on social media and in 2021 he spoke out against Chinese President Xi Jinping. The move has been controversial with the NBA, which has avoided speaking out against China in recent years for fears it might alienate the league from what it sees as a major new market.
The Chinese government reacted by stopping the flow of all games of the Boston Celtics, the team that Freedom was playing for at the time, but the move did not cause Freedom to back down from its blunt approach. He called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in China for the country’s treatment of Uighurs, a movement that ended with partial success when President Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the games late last year.
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Freedom’s defense put him at odds with the NBA and other outspoken stars. Freedom has long criticized LeBron James, perhaps the NBA’s most recognizable star and one of its most outspoken players. Last year, Freedom offered to meet James to “educate” him about human rights abuses in China.
“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 the money,” Freedom told ESPN at the time. “It’s about morals, principles and values. It’s about what you stand for. There are things much bigger than money. If LeBron stopped making money now, his grandchildren, grandchildren and grandchildren can have the best life ever.” .
Last month, Freedom again targeted James for his comments on jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner, claiming that James took America’s freedoms for granted when he argued that Griner may not want to return to the United States from Russia.
“It makes me really sad and it breaks my heart when people take their freedom for granted. That’s why I was like, I was very confused,” Kanter Freedom told America’s Newsroom host Bill Hemmer.
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Freedom believes his battles with the NBA and his most recognizable star are the reason he was cut from the Houston Rockets earlier this year and left without a team, a claim NBA commissioner Adam Silver has denied.
Tina Ramirez, founder and president of Hardwired, a human rights advocacy organization founded in 2013, said Freedom’s courage at such a high personal cost is why she received the Hardwired for Freedom Award. year.
“Enes Freedom has been a tireless advocate for the rights and freedoms of people everywhere,” Ramirez told Fox News Digital. “That’s why you are the ideal recipient of our Hardwired for Freedom Award 2022”.
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Freedom said he hopes his receipt of the award will bring greater awareness of the plight of oppressed people around the world.
“While the recognition of hard work is obviously humbling and rewarding, my hope is that this will bring more attention to major human rights atrocities around the world and the millions of people who suffer tyranny every day,” he told Fox News. Digital. “With so many living with oppression around the world, there is a long way to go, but I am optimistic and look forward to working alongside Hardwired Global to continue to oppose tyranny in all its forms.” .