NBA Player Enes Kanter Becomes U.S. Citizen, Changes Last Name to 'Freedom'

·3 min read
Enes Kanter
Enes Kanter

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The Boston Celtics player formerly known as Enes Kanter became a U.S. citizen this week and changed his last name for the occasion.

The 29-year-old center, who was born in Switzerland and raised in Turkey, changed his name to "Enes Kanter Freedom" when he earned his U.S. citizenship on Monday.

"It's Official 🇺🇸 Mr. Freedom," Kanter Freedom wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday with a picture showing him in a shirt that read, "U.S. CITIZEN, EST. 2021."

The athlete has frequently used his platform in the NBA to scrutinize China and Turkey for human rights violations. Earlier this month, he shared pictures to social media of custom shoes that criticized surveillance and labor practices in China and called for the country to not host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

According to BBC, Turkish authorities filed an international arrest warrant for Kanter Freedom in 2019 and accused him of having connections with organizations involved in a coup attempt in 2016. Kanter Freedom denied the accusations.

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"Here [in the US] there is freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of the press," Kanter Freedom told CNN of his decision to change his last name and become a citizen. "I didn't have any of those with Turkey."

"Freedom is the greatest thing a human being can have," he added. "That's why I wanted to make that word a part of me, and carry it wherever I go."

While speaking to Fox News' Tucker Carlson on Monday, Kanter Freedom said he believes Americans shouldn't criticize their home country.

"People should feel really blessed and lucky to be in America because they love to criticize it, but when you live in a country like Turkey or, you know, China or somewhere else, you appreciate the freedoms you have here," he said.

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"I feel like they should just, please, they should just keep their mouth shut and stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world, and they should focus on, you know, their freedoms and their human rights and their democracy," he continued.

The comments were criticized by some on social media.

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"And one of the freedoms Americans have is to criticize their country," one Twitter user wrote.

Added another: "The irony of people claiming to love the United States being against criticizing the government, a concept without which the United States wouldn't exist as we now know it."

Back in 2020, Kanter Freedom told PEOPLE he used his platform to talk about human rights abuses in Turkey because "it was so important."

"It was bigger than basketball because I talk about freedom, I talk about democracy, I talk about human rights. And I feel like those things are bigger than basketball."

"People now know my story because I play in NBA, but there are thousands and thousands of stories and families out there, their story is way worse than mine," he said. "So I'm trying to use my story to be the voice of their story."