Democracy Dialogues: A Conversation with Enes Kanter Freedom

The former pro basketball player spoke with AS/COA's Eric Farnsworth about taking a stand for human rights and democracy.


  • Enes Kanter Freedom, Former NBA player
  • Eric Farnsworth, AS/COA Vice President

Eric Farnsworth, head of the Washington Office of the Council of the Americas, sat down for a one-on-one interview to talk about ways to challenge authoritarianism with human rights activist with 11-year NBA veteran Enes Kanter Freedom. Drafted as the third overall pick in the first round of the 2011 NBA Draft, Freedom played for the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks, Portland Trailblazers, and, recently, the Boston Celtics. The conversation took place at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC.

Freedom discussed his journey toward becoming an outspoken activist for human rights in his native Turkey, where his father was detained for Freedom’s criticism of the Turkish government. He also recounted how he initially received support from the NBA for expressing his views against the Turkish government but lost it after he took to Twitter to criticize China's treatment of its Uyghur population and other minority groups. Critical of the NBA’s passive stance against the Chinese Communist Party due to its financial interests, Freedom lamented that he potentially sacrificed his NBA career by challenging China, calling out the NBA and its premier star, LeBron James, for their silence on China. Freedom explained he also drew criticism for a decision to wear shoes during an NBA game that were designed by Venezuelan artist Jorge Torrealba and depicted Nicolás Maduro as a monster and showed refugee families and flames. Freedom intends to use his platform and new human rights foundation to challenge authoritarian regimes abroad.

Watch other episodes of Democracy Dialogues.