Has Enes Kanter Freedom really taken the Fox News ‘shut up and dribble’ train? I asked him | NBA

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Enes Kanter Freedom has had a fascinating basketball career. He was not allowed to play college basketball at the University of Kentucky because he had benefited from his professional basketball experience in Turkey as a teenager. And since being drafted as a third pick in the 2011 Draft, he’s played for five different NBA teams and is currently in his second stint with the Boston Celtics.

Etan Thomas

But it was off the pitch that Freedom captured the most attention. He spoke out against human rights violations in China and Turkey, where he grew up. His criticism of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led to reprisals against his family and the cancellation of Freedom’s Turkish passport. Most recently, he took aim at LeBron James over his sponsorship deal with Nike and the company’s alleged links to forced labor in China. Last month, he became a US citizen and legally changed his name from Enes Kanter to Enes Kanter Freedom.

Freedom’s political activity over the years has gone almost unnoticed in most of the United States. If there has been a reaction, it is usually support from across the political spectrum. The right-wing praised his attacks on one of their enemies, Communist China, while the liberals admired his fight against Erdoğan, a leader molded in Trump’s mold.

That all changed when Freedom switched to Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight. He appeared to attack players like LeBron, Colin Kaepernick and the whole new generation of militant athletes who spoke out against human rights violations in America: State-sanctioned violence, including the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor , Terence Crutcher, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Sean Monterrosa, Willie McCoy, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and many more. “I feel like they should just shut up and stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world and they should focus on their freedoms, human rights and democracy,” Kanter told Carlson, who couldn’t hide his exuberance that freedom has taken the bait.

The backlash was swift. In the Atlantic Jemele Hill wrote that “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 ungrateful. unpatriotic ”. In The Nation, Dave Zirin said that Carlson “looked like a spoiled, rosy-cheeked child under the Christmas tree. For him, letting Enes attack powerful outspoken blacks must feel like he has the gift high on his list for Santa Claus.

I understand the points made by Hill and Zirin and agree with much of what they are saying. And while I’m aware of Maya Angelou’s quote that “when people show you who they are believe them the first time,” I didn’t think Carlson’s interview was indicative of what it really feels like. Freedom.

Many on the left have started to undermine the altruism of Freedom’s efforts or to ridicule his playing career (a tactic straight out of the right-wing’s playbook when they disagree with an athlete). So I contacted him to give him the opportunity to clarify or double down on what he had said to Tucker Carlson.

We started off by talking about his statement on the Carlson show that gamers should appreciate the freedoms they have in America from countries like China and Turkey and “stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world.” . Was he actually using a familiar right-wing trope: that players like LeBron should shut up and dribble?

“What I meant is where I come from, Turkey is a brutal dictatorship,” Freedom told me. “We have no freedom of speech, religion or expression. We don’t have a democracy. Turkey could have been a branch of Islam in the West, but just because of everything that’s going on … it’s impossible.

“So what I meant was people should feel lucky and blessed to be in this situation. [in America]. And obviously there are a lot of problems in America. I certainly don’t deny it. I recognize a lot of them and racism is definitely at the top of the list. But what I meant is that at least they’re not in a country like Turkey, Syria, North Korea, Venezuela or Belarus.

That, however, does not mean that Freedom thinks American gamers should remain silent about the issues in that country. “Obviously, I stand up for freedom and I would never, ever tell an athlete or not just an athlete, human being or celebrity not to use their platform. Because obviously the biggest thing we have is freedom of speech, ”he said.

Freedom fell into Carlson’s trap, however. Tuckums (as MSNBC’s Joy Reid calls it) was actually smiling as Freedom seemed to endorse Carlson’s view that anyone who criticizes America is America’s enemy. During our conversation, Freedom admitted that his words had been distorted.

“I saw some of the editorials, and some of the interviews, and some of the comments and so many people didn’t understand what I was trying to say,” he said. “And I don’t judge them because obviously someone used my words… and some of the words I used might be distorted or stretched.” And I have to be more careful with my words.

I am happy to have met Enes Kanter Freedom and given him the opportunity to clarify his statements. But there is no doubt that Tucker Carlson knew exactly what he was doing, and his agenda was clear: to engage Enes Kanter Freedom while he is excited to become a U.S. citizen and get him to criticize others. black athletes who are not (in his eyes) as grateful and grateful to be in America as they should be, who have the audacity to criticize America and call out for police brutality and white supremacy. Fox News only wants to continue its mantra that athletes (at least those who don’t fit their agenda) should shut up and dribble, and not dare to criticize the good old USA.

Hopefully this is a learning experience for Freedom and that he doesn’t let Fox News play him anymore. They don’t care about human rights in China or Turkey. They are only there to use it as a pawn.


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