Enes Freedom on Becoming U.S. Citizen: ‘‘Most Unforgettable Moment In My Life’

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BOSTON – During the “Bubble” portion of the 2019-20 season, the NBA allowed its players to replace the individual names on the backs of their jerseys with social justice messages.

Then-Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter chose the word that best summed up his purpose as a human rights activist: “Freedom.”

The word was on his back only for the last few months of that season. However, what was once a temporary message has now turned into a permanent statement, and one that the 29-year-old will carry on his back for the rest of his career on the court and the rest of his life off the court.

On Monday, the Swiss-born, Turkish-raised professional basketball player officially became a citizen of the United States of America. In celebration of the milestone and for what it represented, he legally changed his name from Enes Kanter to Enes Kanter Freedom.

“It was obviously amazing, a dream come true,” Freedom said Tuesday of his nationalization. “After I got my green card when I was with [the Oklahoma City Thunder], the last six years have been tough. It’s been very rough because the Turkish government put my name on the Interpol list, and they revoked my passport. So it’s been rough but it finally happened. I’ve been waiting for this moment since the day I stepped into America. So definitely one of the most unforgettable, maybe the most unforgettable moment that I’ve had in my life.”

While standing inside Boston’s Joseph Moakley Courthouse Monday afternoon, wearing a black T-shirt that read "U.S. Citizen: est. 2021," Freedom swore his oath of allegiance to the United States using his new name.

“In America, obviously, people are very blessed to be in this situation. They have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of press,” he said following Celtics practice Tuesday afternoon. “I wanted to make that word part of me, because that was the word that I fought for my whole life and that was the word that I've tried to stand up for my whole life.”

Over the past several years, Freedom has been outspoken about human rights violations specifically in Turkey, from which he was banished in 2017. This past year, he has broadened his fight worldwide, and is now using his platform as a celebrity athlete to help others attain freedom.

“The more research I have done, I have seen the human rights violations that are happening not just in Turkey, but all over the world,” he said.

Freedom has expressed his opinions through television appearances, social media, and even through the apparel that he wears on the court. He has faced plenty of criticism in being so outspoken, but the support of his NBA family, especially from within the Celtics organization, has kept him going.

“One thing that I’ll give huge credit is to my teammates,” Freedom said. “They’ve been supportive and they’re all like my family with their support. I just have so much hope and motivation to fight and fight for what’s right. And the Celtics have been unbelievable too. They’ve been very supportive as well.”

Head coach Ime Udoka has repeatedly stood up for Freedom throughout the season, including on the eve of Freedom’s nationalization ceremony saying, “He wants to express something and we’re all for it.”

Freedom will express himself every time he puts on his Celtics uniform from this day forward, representing his team on the front and his cause on the back.