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Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom is ready to have a sit-down conversation with Lakers forward LeBron James.
Freedom, who changed his last name from “Kanter” to “Freedom” after becoming a U.S. citizen on Monday, has criticized James for refusing to speak out against the human rights violations in China. Per ESPN, Freedom said after practice on Tuesday that he wants to educate James on what’s going on in China.
“Sure, I’d love to sit down and talk to him,” Freedom said. “I’m sure it’s going to be a very uncomfortable conversation for him. I don’t know if he’s gonna want that. I’ll make that really comfortable for him.
“I don’t know if he’s educated enough, but I’m here to educate him and I’m here to help him, because it’s not about money. It’s about morals, principles and values. It’s about what you stand for. There are way bigger things than money. If LeBron stopped making money now, his grandkids and grandkids and grandkids can have the best life ever.”
In the Lakers’ loss to the Celtics on Nov. 19, Freedom wore shoes that read “Hey King Still Researching And Getting Educated?” James was dismissive of Freedom after the game, saying he wasn’t giving his energy towards him.
“I don’t give too many people my energy,” James said. “He’s definitely not someone I would give my energy to. He’s trying to use my name to create an opportunity for himself. I definitely won’t comment too much on that. … He’s always had a word or two to say in my direction, and as a man, if you’ve got an issue with somebody, you really come up to him. He had his opportunity tonight. I saw him in the hallway, and he walked right by me.”
Freedom was asked about that interaction but saw it from a different point of view.
“I was actually on the court and after I left the court, he was behind me. … Then I stopped to take a picture with a kid, and he was the one who walked right past me,” Freedom said.
Along with James, Freedom called out Nike for their hypocrisy in picking and choosing which social issues to support. Freedom says that many items that Nike sales are made from oppression.
“They stand for Black Lives Matter in America — amazing. They stand for the Latino community. No Asian hate. They stand with the LGBTQ community,” Freedom said. “But when it comes to some of the countries out there, like China, they remain silent. Obviously they are using these players to become the face, like Cristiano Ronaldo for soccer, LeBron for basketball, and some other athletes. But they’re becoming puppets.
“I feel like we need to be careful of what we are wearing, because every time you put those items on your feet or back, there’s so much blood or sweat or oppression on those items.”
While James and his lifetime Nike contract that pays him more than $30 million annually are what Freedom has focused on, another prominent name has been quiet as well. That would be Michael Jordan, who Freedom says other players have encouraged him to call out as well.
Jordan has been well known to steer clear of providing an opinion on social issues and has often been criticized for it.
“But when these issues are happening, some of the other players out there in the league are scared to say anything against LeBron or Jordan,” Freedom said. “But they are reaching out to me and giving me talking points and say, ‘Listen, you talk about LeBron. It’s amazing — but he’s at least standing up for things in America. Why don’t you say anything about Michael Jordan? The only thing he is doing is just giving money, but he is remaining silent. He’s scared to speak up.'”
Most in the NBA community have remained quiet as Freedom continues to bring attention to issues in China. Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is the exception, praising Freedom on Saturday as relayed by OutKick’s Alejandro Avila. He, however, did not mention China directly.
“I am glad that Enes speaks up when he feels like it,” Popovich said. “I think it’s great. No reason not to.”