Celtics Exec Brad Stevens Denies Enes Freedom Told Not To Sport Anti-China Shoes: 'Wear Whatever You Want'

NBA free agent center Enes Freedom has been an outspoken critic of the strong relationship between the NBA and China, but Boston Celtics president Brad Stevens said that isn't why the team traded him.

Freedom, who previously went by the last name of Kanter, is one of the NBA's most renowned hustling big men, but has been a man without a team since the Celtics traded him to the Houston Rockets on Feb. 10. The Rockets immediately waived him and he hasn't been signed since.

Freedom has suggested his strong political stance against China is the reason he can't find a new NBA home. He has called the NBA out for discussing all social justice issues other than the massive human rights violations taking place in China. He has also been known to wear sneakers calling out the communist nation's government, as well Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.

Freedom even went as far as calling the Celtics coaching staff "hypocrites" for wearing pins in support of Ukraine, but asking him to remove his sneakers that bashed China.

Stevens, however, said the second part isn't true.

​​“Here’s exactly what happened,” Stevens told the Boston Herald. “I was actually at home, and when he decided to wear the sneakers, there was some concern -- and I didn’t even know until the end of the first quarter -- that there was a potential uniform or dress code violation. I don’t know what was said -- I can’t imagine that phrasing was said -- but the question to me was what to do about Enes’ shoes.

"I said I think that he’s fine, and let me double check with the NBA to see if there’s any uniform violation. Double-checked, fine, and he wore those the rest of the game and he wore whatever he wanted the rest of the year. It’s interesting, because I feel really good that we truly sat here and supported him and his right to express himself and his freedom of speech, and I even told him the next day that you know I’ve always done that.

“I talked to him the next day, and I said, 'You know I’ve always supported your right to express yourself, to speak on whatever you speak on. Just let me know in advance, so I’m not checking on these things in the middle of the first quarter from my couch at home.' We didn’t talk about anything after that because we weren’t checking from that point forward. Wear whatever you want.”

In other words, this is a case of he said/he said. Stevens is an all-American guy from Indiana, so being caught up in this is probably the last thing he wants.

But no matter how you spin it, Freedom is determined to keep the spotlight on the injustices in China, and the supposed attempts to silence him.

"To be clear, Freedom has no issue with supporting Ukraine. In fact, he’s fully in favor of it, as he says in his tweet," wrote OutKick's Anthony Farris. "However, he takes issue with the NBA swiftly backing Ukraine while remaining silent on other world issues that have lingered for much longer than the last two weeks."

Written by
Sam Amico spent 15 years covering the NBA for Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports and NBA.com, along with a few other spots, and currently runs his own basketball website on the side, FortyEightMinutes.com.