Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom revealed that NBA officials put pressure on him to remove his “Free Tibet” sneakers just before a game.
Freedom said that he played zero minutes that game, but he refused to remove the shoes. He said the officials subsequently apologized to him for the incident at halftime.
NBA PLAYER ENES KANTER WILL CHANGE LAST NAME TO ‘FREEDOM’ AS HE BECOMES A US CITIZEN
“I remember wearing those shoes, and right before the game, two gentlemen from the NBA said, ‘Take those shoes off,'” he said in an interview with Megyn Kelly . “I was, like, ‘I’m not taking those shoes off.’ They were, like, ‘listen, we’re begging you to take those shoes off.'”
A spokesperson for the NBA appeared to contradict Freedom’s allegations in a statement to the Washington Examiner.
“At no point has any NBA league official approached Enes and asked him not to wear his choice of shoes,” the spokesperson said.
Following that incident, Freedom said he had a discussion with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who reassured him that he did not break any rules and was free to wear those shoes during NBA games.
During his confrontation with the NBA officials, whom Freedom did not name, he cited his freedom of speech guaranteed in the First Amendment as a reason to wear those shoes. He told them that he did not care if he was going to get fired, as he was not going to take those shoes off.
Freedom was sworn in as a U.S. citizen last month and changed his name to “Enes Kanter Freedom.”
He has been a fierce critic of alleged human rights abuses in Turkey and China. His criticism of Turkey led to the Turkish government revoking his passport. He previously said that the NBA was very supportive of his activism against Turkey. In 2019, the NBA fired a vendor that managed the NBA Turkey Twitter account after it avoided mentioning him in its promotional posts.
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Freedom’s activism against the Chinese Communist Party has drawn national attention. He accused the Chinese government of gross human rights violations. He has specifically called out its actions against the Uyghur population in Xinjiang and against the people of Tibet.
Freedom says that unlike his criticism of Turkey, his activism against China has drawn some pushback. He said he has received phone calls from NBA officials. But he indicated that his team has been supportive of his activism.