NBA player celebrates U.S. citizenship by changing name to Enes Kanter Freedom

Boston Celtics player and human rights activist Enes Kanter will change his name Monday in celebration of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Updated: November 28, 2021 - 8:54pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

The Swiss-born Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter will change his name to Enes Kanter Freedom when he becomes a U.S. citizen on Monday.

Kanter is a human rights activist and a vocal critic of his native Turkish government and the Chinese Communist Party.

The Athletic’s senior NBA reporter confirmed Kanter’s name change on Sunday, explaining, “Kanter will be his middle name, Freedom is his new last name.”

Kanter, a practicing Muslim, has been playing in the NBA for more than 10 years but has recently became much more vocal about his beliefs.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan issued ten arrest warrants for the NBA player over the last four years. Kanter said it is because he stands “up for Human Rights and Political Prisoners who are getting tortured and raped.” 

Kanter’s father, Mehmet, was accused of supporting Fethullah Gülen, a Pennsylvania imam who was blamed by Erdoğan for a 2016 coup. Mehemet was arrested on terrorism charges in Turkey and spent seven years in prison before being acquitted and released in June 2020.

Enes Kanter began wearing anti-China shoes at Celtics games in October 2021. The artistic shoes include phrases such as “Free Tibet” and “Free Uyghur.” 

Calling out Nike, Kanter wore shoes last month with fake blood and the phrases “Made with Slave Labor” and “Hypocrite Nike.” On Twitter, he asked Nike owner Phil Knight and NBA stars LeBron James and Michael Jordan to go to China with him to visit “SLAVE labor camps” (original emphasis). 

Kanter told the Hill, "We need to call out these companies. Nike, the biggest sponsor of NBA. In America, they stand with Black Lives Matter, Latino community, No Asian Hate, and the LGBTQ community, but when it comes to China, they remain silent."

Celtics games are banned in China after Kanter accused Xi Jinping of being a “brutal dictator,” according to the New York Times. 

Kanter temporarily changed his surname online in 2016, when he replaced Kanter with Gülen on his Twitter profile after his family disowned him.