He Left the NBA to Fight for Human Rights | Enes Freedom at #Heritage50

He Left the NBA to Fight for Human Rights | Enes Freedom at #Heritage50

Former NBA star and human rights advocate, Enes Kanter Freedom, gives an address at Heritage’s 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit.

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And it's cancer Freedom thank you guys I Appreciate it thank you guys so much Thank you Wow this is a beautiful crowd I love it Yeah we so appreciate everyone being Here thank you for being here thank you For sitting down with me no and I got a Lot of times I don't play any basketball Anymore as you guys know I don't play Basketball anymore you know so I got a Lot of time in my hand well and you're Putting it to good use we are all Familiar in this room I didn't give a Resume and a background because we're Familiar with your incredible NBA career We're familiar with your political Activism but if you could go back a Little bit further for me in your life Your childhood you were you were raised In an environment that was very Anti-western very anti-American how did You become what you are now given that That's how you were raised you know a Quick story so obviously I grew up in Middle East I born in Switzerland but I Uh I lived in I live in Turkey I grew up In Turkey so I remember you know if if You're in Turkey if you are you know you Know a politician if you want to be Elected again you do two things You attack America you attack Israel The unfortunately the base is so Uneducated and they believe whatever They see it on TV or whatever they read

On the news so I'm a little kid I went Downstairs to play with my friends and I Remember what I seen that day just Shocked me so bad my little friends they Were not even teenagers They were burning American flags they Were burning Israeli Flags they are they Were actually breaking crosses and I was Like guys what are you doing they said Well you know that's why we sit on TV so They gave me a flag to burn it actually So I took the flag they give me a Lighter I looked at the flag and a Lighter I'm like this is not the right Way you know so I threw it down and I Ran upstairs to my mom I was like Mom My friends are telling me to hate America they're telling me they hate you Know you know Jewish people they're Telling me they hate Christians what do I do My mom said I'm not going to tell you What to do but do not hate anyone before You meet him so So that day I give a promise to my mom You know I promise I'm not going to Chill I know so so and then eight years Later I'm 17 years old I came to America For the first time I remember you know One of my friend invited me for a dinner You know she was American and Jewish so She invited me a Thanksgiving dinner and Uh and Shabbat dinner so Before I went to a dinner I called my

Turkish friend who lives in America I Was like listen if you don't hear from Me for the next two hours call the Police you know Because I just didn't know what to Expect but I wanted their house it was An amazing time you know that we had an Amazing time but then I got so emotional Because when I was going back to my Place I was like there are so many kids In the Middle East Growing up anti-semitic anti-American Anti-west you know just because of those Politicians hate speeches so I was like We gotta do something about it So You've played basketball yeah All over the world yes you have an Incredible and incredible my youngest Sister plays college basketball cool Yeah yeah basketball a huge basketball Fan Um when was it that you realized that This trajectory this Sports trajectory Was going to collide with some of these Morals that you saw whether it's whether It's anti-americanism or anti-Semitism Or this human rights abuse that we're Seeing in China you know I think when You play basketball obviously every kid In the world loves basketball or sports Or it does give you a huge platform to Talk about whatever you want to talk About yourself I was like you know what

Let's just talk about some things that Are bigger than basketball so I think For me whenever I wanted to you know Like whenever I've done with my career I Wanted to look back and I was like how Many people I Inspire especially the Kids how many people how many hearts I Touched or how many you know lives I Have changed and I was like you know What let's just talk about some of the Things that are important to not just Only myself but in the world so that's Why I started to talk about but the Dictatorship in Turkey I started to talk About the dictatorship in China and many Other ones Iran Russia and and stuff and I was like well it is actually people Are like changing whenever I do a Basketball camp for kids they used to Ask me oh who's the goat Michael Jordan Or Kobe Bryant who is the best team but Now they're asking me about what's Happening in Hong Kong what's happening In Taiwan tell us about the the freedom We have in America you know so I was Like seeing the change and it died it Did give me so much hope I mean I think That I speak for us all and I say that Gives us all hope Were you nervous about how your Teammates and how the executives in the NBA would react when you started Engaging in political activism that is Counter to the financial interests of

Those organizations you know like three Years ago I'm sure you guys followed a Very uh closely when we were in MBA Bubble it was all about social justice For MBA they said we are more than Athletes we are more than you know or a Basketball organization so let's just You know talk about some of the things And even like they put all this like BLM Logos on the floor they put phrases Behind our Jersey which was controlled By the NBA we couldn't pick what we Wanted to pick you know So and then I was seeing the hypocrisy Because they will care about Social justice until it hits their Pocket so I was like you know what I'm Just gonna go out there and just Literally expose the whole the whole System so I was like you know what let's Just talk about you know China and um I Started to talk about China and what I Did was so interesting I'm I mean I'm Sure you love shoes everyone here's Loves shoes right so when even when I Was a kid whenever I watched an NBA game I could I could care less about the Basketball game I was just watching the Shoes so the next day I can wake up and Tell my dad please buy those shoes for Me you know so I was like let's reach Out to these artists around the world Which has been oppressed by their Governments you know let's come up with

This you know shoes that which has no Slave labor you know and I'm just gonna Put that on my shoes and go out there And play basketball how simple is that You know so I was playing for the Celtics and uh our First game was against New York Knicks I'm not sure if you guys ever the Knicks Fans here or not Um but waiting to see all the story Turns out before okay So the the first game was against the Knicks I put the shoes on it was it was A free Tibet nothing crazy I went out there and played basketball Before the game admitted before the game The two gentlemen from the NBA came to Me and said take your shoes off and I'm Like excuse me they're like you gotta Take your shoes off because your shoes Has been getting so much attention it Was from China It was the perfect moment for me because I was just getting ready for my Citizenship test right so I closed my Eyes I was like okay there are 27 met Miss my first I met Fremont speech I was Like no I'm not taking them off you know Oh So in the halftime Halftime not even they didn't even wait For the whole game to end the halftime China banned every Celtics game in Television at a halftime think about it

In a half time and Um and then after the game one of my Teammate World Cup to me and said you Know this is your last year in NBA right You're not gonna play basketball ever Again if you there's two things you Criticize China you criticize Nike you Will not be able to play basketball ever Again in this in this league and that Pretty much happened you know in February boom I was gone and you think That's why yeah of course 100 many People I mean I talk to so many people I'm 30 years old I'm healthy I could Have played another five years the year Before that actually I averaged double Double I'm sure there are lots of Basketball fans here they know what Double double is so there you go So uh yeah so I'm out of a job was it Worth it you know looking back it is Worth it because I just couldn't go to Sleep at night while I know on the other Side of the ocean there are two three Million Muslims are in concentration Camps getting torture and rape every day You look at the Tibetans you look at the One Hong kongers are going through you Look at Taiwanese people Mongolians Falun gowns and I can just go on and on Forget about China you look at Iran you Look at Russia I mean there are so many Problems and I was like this platform is Given me by God so just why don't you

Just use it to do the God's work you Know yeah it's it your story is amazing I do want to ask you about your Teammate's reaction not just the one Teammate who said that because that's Just an observation and perhaps an Accurate observation Inside the NBA on These teams did you get support for People who were just keeping their Support quiet or what was the General Reaction so it was the perfect moment Because it was right before the Beijing Olympics in you know Winter Olympics so I literally try to reach out to everyone Forget about my teammates forget about NBA NFL MLB NHL forget about that I try To do to Olympians they all said the Same thing they were like listen I think We love you I think what you're doing is So amazing so inspirational we support You but we just cannot do it out loud I Asked them why they said well we have Shoe deals endorsement deals we have Jersey sales we want to get another Contract I asked them one simple Question I was like put yourself in Their shoes if you're a mother if your Sister if your daughter was in those Concentration you can't get in torture And rape every day we just still stay Silent they usually turn around and Leave their room you know but what Breaks my heart is when it comes to America you know they criticize like

Crazy I remember sitting in a locker Room and I seen all my teammates you Know they're saying America is this America is that America is horrible blah Blah I was like Season is about to be over So when the season is over let me buy Your ticket and let's just go to some of These countries out there like China Like Russia like Iran like North Korea Like Venezuela like Cuba and I can just Go on and on I know we only have like a Minute and a half left so anyway I was Like let me see if you guys can even Criticize or say anything or tweet or Anything about the government you'll be And your family members will be in Torture and rape so uh they just don't Know any better it's it's chilling to Hear the inside of it we all are Familiar with watching this play out From from a distance but to hear the Story so now you've dedicated Um you've dedicated this part of your Career to activism for human rights Activism if you had to name one thing That you one policy agenda that is your Priority what would that be You know I will just say I'm not a Politician I don't I don't know a lot of Bills or agendas in this that I just Hope that just people can have some Empathy in their heart you know because Once you put yourself in their shoes

With people what what they're going Through on the other side of the ocean On Middle East or China whatever you Know it's uh There's no way that you can pick Anything but your morals values and Principles you know I just hope that People can have that you know because This is bigger than basketball bigger Than MBA bigger than myself bigger than Everything that I have done so far you Know you're trying to be the voice of All those innocent people out there who Don't have a voice I mean people keep Talking about my career losing my career Whatever I try to stand up for the Things that are happening in turkey and I haven't seen my family almost 10 years Now you know and uh my dad was in jail Just because when I talk about the human Rights violations and political Prisoners I don't even talk about Politics because that is not my job you Know I talk about human rights everyone Should care about it so um I just hope That people can have some empathy in Their heart Do you have any message now that you are Separated from the NBA do you have any Message to the NBA I mean I just I mean there are so many Players who has a huge platform and and So many kids out there are idolizing Them and following their footsteps right

So we just keep talking about our future If you want to have a better and Brighter future we have to educate our Kids and we have to inspire them and God Giving you this talent to inspire Millions of kids not only in America but Around the world so my message will be Just stand for what's right even if it Means sacrificing everything you have Because you are literally impacting our Kids and that is impacting our future so Amen to that ladies and gentlemen Thank you I appreciate it thank you Thank you thank you Yeah thank you thank you guys appreciate That that's it right yes [Music] [Applause] [Music] Everything [Music] Love with blessings [Music]

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