Freedom movement to Kanter: 'Hey, we want our name back!'
The Celtics' Enes Kanter changes his name and becomes the new darling of the MAGAs
“I don’t know his name, I’m not memorizing his name, I don’t give a sh*t what he changes his name to.” — Shaquille O’Neal
I’m having a hard time trying to describe Enes Kanter Freedom. How about this tagline? He’s the Devon Nunes of professional basketball. After all, Nunes gave up a chance to be head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee if Republicans win in 2022, to become the new doorman at Mar-a-Lago. Freedom gave up his comradeship with his fellow NBAers for a pat on the head from Trump and a guest spot on Tucker Carlson’s TV show.
OK, maybe that’s a stretch.
When it comes to professional athletes speaking out on political issues, I’m definitely not a “shut-up-and-dribble” guy. Quite the contrary. I’ve always been deeply grateful and awed by athletes from Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick, who used their fame and risked their careers to have their voices heard on social-justice issues.
Having said that, I still think hooper Enes Kanter Freedom is a horse’s ass.
Formerly, just plain Enes Kanter, the Boston Celtics center who was born in Switzerland to Turkish parents and raised in Turkey, took on a new surname when he became an American citizen on Monday. While I congratulate him on gaining citizenship, I think his new name is unbefitting his right-wing creepiness. He should wrap it up and return it to the Civil Rights Movement right after the holidays.
But in these Orwellian times, when so many beautiful words have lost their meaning and the word freedom has been used as a signifier for gun crazies and anti-vaxers, I suppose it’s only natural that it should wind up on the back of Number 13’s Jersey.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m okay with his right to speak his mind and am even down with some of Freedom’s comments. He has attacked Nike for forced slavery, for example, and had a falling out with Turkey’s thuggy President Erdoğan, making him persona non grata in the country and afraid to travel to other countries with his team. I’m good with all that.
Well, let me put a qualifier on that. Kanter has close ties to the Turkish exiled billionaire recluse, Fethullah Gülen, who was rumored to be behind the failed coup in Turkey in 2016. I know this gets into the weeds, but Gülen is also the force behind one of the biggest chains of privately-run charter schools in this country. Here in Chicago, they’re called Concept Charter Schools. His charter organization has been under investigation for financial misdealings and more and has even been raided by the FBI.
Freedom, who attended a Gulënist school in Turkey, counts himself among Gülen’s allies. which is perhaps one of the main reasons he became a target of the Turkish president. He says he was with Gülen the night of the coup and continues to back him, but he also promises, “If I see something wrong in this movement, I will speak up about it, too.”
So instead of throwing in with his freedom-minded fellow hoopers who transformed the culture of the league last year, playing in a bubble and speaking out in unison in support of Black Lives Matter, Freedom has come out as a Trump-loving MAGA. He’s currently making the rounds of the right-wing talk shows, bashing black players like LeBron James for their outspoken anti-racism. He’s also joined the anti-China chorus claiming LBJ and — former NBAer, now playing in China — Jeremy Lin, are pawns of the Chinese Communist Party.
Now I’m not a bit surprised that in the otherwise progressive brotherhoods and sisterhoods of NBA players, a few racist right-wingers should emerge. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that only the ball was brown in the NBA.
And peaking of pawns…
The great sportswriter Jemele Hill writes in The Atlantic:
On Monday, Freedom appeared on Fox News’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, whose namesake anchor breathlessly asked Freedom if he was more grateful for his citizenship than some of his teammates who had been born in America. The subtext of Carlson’s question was obvious: Most NBA players are Black, and Carlson frequently portrays people of color who seek political and social change as ungrateful and unpatriotic.
Freedom took the bait. “People should feel really blessed and lucky to be in America,” he responded. “They love to criticize it, but when you live in a country like Turkey or China or somewhere else, you will appreciate the freedoms you have here.” And then Freedom went further. In a dramatic turn for someone who has suffered the consequences of political repression, he suggested that other players “should just keep their mouth shut and stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world, and they should focus on their freedoms and their human rights and democracy.”
Carlson grinned and said, “That’s how I feel.”
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