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A rare few in sports want to balance a full-time position as a player and activist for human rights. Full-time, being the key.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom has been a model for this type of two-way athlete: playing in his 13th year in the NBA and consistently using his platform to bring insight to rights violations instigated by the Chinese government.
As China’s market provides great returns for the NBA and its players, Kanter Freedom wants to separate himself from the group and hold the CCP accountable, hoping that people may find liberation as a result.
Joining “The Will Cain Podcast” — relayed by Fox News — to discuss his activism, the NBA vet shared that players still caution against the potential ramifications by stepping up to China while coaxing him to promote his message.
Added support has appeared in unsuspected cities, including a recent run-in with an unnamed teammate of LeBron James on the Los Angeles Lakers.
“One of the teammates that LeBron had came up to me and said, ‘Dude, keep doing what you’re doing. What you’re doing is right. Don’t give up,'” Kanter Freedom said.
“He said, ‘I have so much things that I want to say, but I cannot because these teams got us,'” the center added. “If you want another contract, if you want more endorsement deals, if you want other companies to work with you, you have to keep your mouth shut. You cannot criticize the league, the companies, Nike, or whoever – the players or superstars.”
Players around sports are waking up to a political landscape with a tighter grip on society than in recent decades — sped up by pandemic-era policies. From Peng Shuai to Novak Djokovic, government overreach is bypassing the rules of a previous generation and putting the athlete under the thumb, as well.
Since 2020’s heightened activism seen from sporting leagues, an increasing number of athletes have taken a step back from joining the predominant narrative to assemble informed stances independently.
When the NFL polled its players on the future of COVID protocols, the majority responded in favor of eliminating all restrictions, following a rocky year of half-baked COVID testing and isolation strategy flaunted by the League.
As for the NBA, a subtle agreement is spreading among players on China’s peccant government. Kanter Freedom remains on the fast break to extend his message and tackle the root of China’s intimidation.
Follow along on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela