Enes Kanter Freedom may just be the bravest man in sports. Going after the face of the NBA — LeBron James — for his unwillingness to speak out against human rights abuses in China brings with it scrutiny that most athletes would shy away from.
Freedom — Kanter legally changed his name on Monday after becoming a U.S. citizen — has not been shy in criticizing China for its record on human rights abuses, but going after Nike and James is different considering the league in which Freedom plays.
Both James and Nike hold massive influence within the NBA. In 2015, Nike and the NBA agreed to an 8-year apparel deal beginning with the 2017-2018 NBA season worth a reported $1 billion, and James is widely considered to be one of the greatest players in the history of the league.
Kanter has criticized James and others in past weeks for staying silent on China while they “pretend they care about social justice.”
On Tuesday, Freedom spoke after the Boston Celtics practice and said that he was willing to sit down and speak with James in an “uncomfortable conversation.”
“Sure, I’d love to sit down and talk to him,” Freedom said according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I’m sure it’s going to be a very uncomfortable conversation for him. I don’t know if he’s gonna want that. I’ll make that really comfortable for him.”
“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 money. It’s about morals, principles and values. It’s about what you stand for. There are way bigger things than money. If LeBron stopped making money now, his grandkids and grandkids and grandkids can have the best life ever.”
In recent years, there has been an increase in athletes speaking out on issues outside of the playing field, an approach that Freedom seems to support.
“I feel like it’s definitely time for athletes to stand up for the things they believe in … not just in America … but all over the world,” Kanter said.
In an October video posted to social media, Freedom first went after Nike and founder Phil Knight for their unwillingness to speak out on atrocities committed by the Chinese government.
“Your company says that you’re making a positive impact in our communities,” Kanter said. “And that is true. Yes, you are. Here, in the United States, Nike stands with Black Lives Matter. Nike stands with Stop Asian Hate. Nike stands with the Latino community. And Nike stands with the LGBTQ community … But when it comes to China, Nike remains silent.”
“You do not address [police brutality] in China, you do not speak about discrimination against the LGBTQ community, you do not say a word about the oppression of minorities in China. You are scared to speak up.”
Kanter went on to claim that Nike’s products are produced by forced labor, specifically Uyghur forced labor.
Later in the video, Kanter first mentioned James and NBA legend Michael Jordan, offering to buy them plane tickets to China so that they could “visit these slave labor camps and you can see with your own eyes.”
On Tuesday, Freedom once again went after Jordan, saying that the six-time NBA champion and owner of the Charlotte Hornets is “scared to speak up.”
“The thing is, whenever I talk about LeBron, whenever I talk about Michael Jordan, the Black athletes in the league are the ones reaching out to me and saying, ‘Listen, talk about this person,’” Freedom said according to ESPN. “Not many people know this, but they are the ones giving me talking points. When Black Lives Matter protests happened, I was the third one in the whole league that went out there and protested. I was actually wearing my jersey. I wanted them to know that I am with them.”
“But when these issues are happening, some of the other players out there in the league are scared to say anything against LeBron or Jordan … but they are reaching out to me and giving me talking points and say, ‘Listen, you talk about LeBron. It’s amazing — but he’s at least standing up for things in America. Why don’t you say anything about Michael Jordan? The only thing he is doing is just giving money, but he is remaining silent. He’s scared to speak up.’”
On Tuesday, James was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols and ruled out for the Lakers’ Tuesday night game against the Sacramento Kings.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.
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