Former NBA center Enes Kanter Freedom has had a bounty put out on him by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government worth up to 10 million Turkish lira, or about $500,000, for information leading to his capture.
Freedom is on the country’s 2023 most-wanted terrorists list as he has been famously outspoken regarding Turkey’s human rights abuses through Erdogan’s government. He told the New York Post that he found out about the bounty a week ago.
“Before the bounty, Turkish intelligence were after the people on the list, but now everyone is after them because they want the money,” Freedom told the Post.
On top of that, Freedom says he is looking into suing the NBA, which he says has blackballed him following his protests against China.
“I’m waiting for the right time,” he said.
Freedom hasn’t held back his thoughts on Erdogan throughout his NBA career, calling him a “dictator,” and even going as far to say he’s the “Hitler of our century.”
Freedom is on the terrorist list along with real terrorists, others that have spoken out about Erdogan and his government, and multiple journalists. Just this past year, the number of journalists that have been put in jail doubled.
“Because of my platform, whenever I say something, it goes everywhere, and the Turkish government hates that,” Freedom told the Post. “They’re really sick of it, and they said, ‘Enough is enough,’ and doing whatever they can to shut me up.”
Freedom, 30, most recently played 35 games with the Boston Celtics last season on their run to the NBA Finals, where they lost to the Golden State Warriors. But Kanter isn’t on a team now, and he suspects it’s due to his criticism of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party.
The NBA has a strong relationship with China, where basketball is an extremely popular sport. Freedom also said things about Nike due to their manufacturing deals with China, and the sports brand has large ties with the league as well.
Freedom has worn shoes with messages that included “No Beijing 2022,” “Free Tibet” and more. He said pressure from the NBA was put on him to take them off.
Freedom was traded from the Celtics to the Houston Rockets, but they dropped him quickly after the transaction.
“The NBA is never going to admit it, but I believe I’m being blackballed,” he told the Post. “I’ve had many conversations, and everyone is saying the same thing: ‘Your career has ended because of your China comments.'”
“They are a 100% American-made organization, but they are being controlled and run by the biggest dictatorship in the world, China,” he continued. “How can China fire an American citizen from an American organization? That is unacceptable.”
The Swiss-born, Turkish-raised player became an American citizen in 2021, and he added Freedom to his name. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., where he is in “constant contact” with local authorities and the FBI as a result of being on Erdogan’s list.
“I’m being protected 24/7,” Freedom said.
“I’m speaking out because I am not the only one on that list. There are so many journalists, so many activists, and so many athletes, but they aren’t as well-known as me. They are way easier targets — and they’re alone out there.”