NBA player Enes Kanter, an outspoken critic of human rights violations in Turkey and China’s treatment of Uyghurs, will adopt “Freedom” as his surname when he becomes a US citizen on Monday, US media reported.
The Boston Celtics center will have his citizenship oath ceremony on Monday afternoon and at the same time will complete his legal name change, Kanter’s manager, Hank Fetic, told The Associated Press.
The news was first reported by NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic and analyst for Stadium.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is legally changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom, @TheAthletic @Stadium learned. Kanter will be his middle name, Freedom is his new last name. He becomes a U.S. citizen on Monday.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 28, 2021
Kanter told CNN’s John Berman his new last name comes from what his teammates have been calling him.
An outspoken critic of human right violations, Kanter has used social media and specially designed clothing during NBA games to bring awareness to China’s treatment of the Uyghur community, Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Heartless Dictator of China,
XI JINPING and the Communist Party of China.
I am calling you out in front of the whole world.
Close down the SLAVE labor camps and free the UYGHUR people!
Stop the GENOCIDE, now!#FreeUyghurs pic.twitter.com/eEoiw5Uz2K
— Enes FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) October 22, 2021
Kanter, who has lived mainly in the United States for more than a decade, has used his substantial platform as an international star athlete to condemn Turkey’s pivot towards authoritarianism under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the past few years.
Turkey revoked his passport in 2017 like those of thousands of others in a massive crackdown launched by the Turkish government following a coup attempt in July 2016.
Turkish officials are also seeking an Interpol Red Notice for Kanter and have been pursuing his arrest since January 2019, alleging that he backed Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and provided financial support to his group.
Kanter describes himself as a close ally of Gülen, a US-based Muslim cleric who inspired the Gülen movement, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government and is accused of masterminding the abortive putsch on July 15, 2016.
Although both Gülen and his followers strongly deny involvement in the attempted coup and in any terrorist activities, Ankara removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links following the failed coup as part of a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens that was launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.
Kanter dismisses the failed coup in Turkey as a “fake coup” staged by Erdoğan.