Former Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter Freedom doesn’t expect to play in the NBA again or in Europe because of his outspoken views on human rights abuses in China and other places around the world.
But the Turkish big man did recently get some calls from the WWE about becoming a professional wrestler.
“I’m not joking,” he said Friday at Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart’s annual security conference in Salt Lake City. Freedom was among several speakers talking about world issues, particularly China.
One of the wrestlers told him he could talk publicly about whatever he wanted except for Saudi Arabia. Freedom said he was told what China is to the NBA, Saudi Arabia is to the WWE.
“It’s too late,” he said. “I already mentioned them.
Freedom last played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics this past season. He was traded to the Houston Rockets right before the league trade deadline in February. Houston waived the big man a short time later, and he has not heard from any NBA team. At 30 years old, he said he could play another five or six years.
“Free agency is open for one month. Normally, I should have already received offers. This summer I did not receive one single offer,” Freedom told EuroHoops via Google Translate, SB Nation reported this week. “The reason is that I spoke out against what is happening in China in recent months. The Chinese market is a big part of the NBA business. So, they will allow talking freely about anything you want until it hurts them financially. As soon as you do that, they will cut you. It is very sad and unacceptable.”
Freedom said he can’t play in the EuroLeague because he can’t enter Turkey and Turkish Airlines is a league sponsor.
At the conference, Freedom said he recently formed a foundation focused on encouraging freedom, democracy and social harmony around the globe. He said he also wants to use basketball to bring people together. He flew to Salt Lake City from Israel where he put on a basketball camp that included Israeli and Palestinian kids.
“It was one of the best basketball camps I had,” he said. “This Jewish kid was passing to the Muslim kid and he was dribbling the ball and passing to the Christian kid and he was scoring the ball, and they were high-fiving each other.”
Freedom said regardless of people’s culture, religion or skin color, they need to learn to put their differences aside and find what they have in common.
“We only have one world to live in. Until one of those crazy billionaires finds another planet to live, this world is what we have,” he said.
Born in Switzerland and raised in his parents’ native Turkey, he legally changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom to mark becoming a U.S. citizen last November.
In addition to more recently expressing his views about China, Freedom criticized authoritarianism in Turkey early in his basketball career a decade ago. He has since been banned from Turkey.
The Jazz drafted Freedom with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. He spent 31⁄2 seasons in Utah before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After his release from the Rockets in February, Freedom said he didn’t get a phone call or text message from one of the hundreds of teammates and coaches he had with five teams during his 11-year career. He said they were worried he would mention their names in interviews or in social media posts as someone who supported him.
“I used to call them my brothers,” he said. “The last six, seven months, that for me has been very lonely.”