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Boston Celtics and New York Knicks veteran claims he’s blacklisted by NBA for being critical of Chinese government

Jason Burgos
boston celtics, new york knicks
Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Boston Celtics and New York Knicks veteran Enes Kanter Freedom says that his public protesting against human rights violations by the Chinese government, and the relationship the league has with them has led to him being blacklisted by the league and its 30 teams.

Enes Kanter Freedom — who added the third name after becoming a United States citizen in November — has long been outspoken about human rights issues in China. Especially when it comes to the ongoing plight of individuals recognized as Uyghurs there.

Freedom is among several other NBA personalities that have openly questioned the NBA actively looking to expand its brand in China despite the persecution of Uyghurs. And in a new interview, the 11-year league veteran is claiming he is having difficulty landing a spot on an NBA roster because of his opinions, and the strong influence the Chinese government has on the league.

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Boston Celtics veteran says NBA is run by the ‘Chinese dictatorship’

boston celtics, new york knicks
Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

“The NBA, in my opinion, is the most hypocritical organization out there,” Freedom told Outkick on Thursday. “So we need to keep pushing the NBA to stand up for what is right. The NBA is a 100 percent American-made organization that the Chinese dictatorship runs. That is unacceptable. Someone, whether it’s the Senate or other politicians, needs to say ‘enough is enough.’ And it’s not just the NBA. Chinese-controlled US institutions also include Hollywood and academia. Someone has to stop this.”

Enes Kanter Freedom played just 35 games for the Boston Celtics this past season. He was traded to the Houston Rockets in February, then released in a cost-cutting measure. While on the surface it seems like he may be a player on the decline, two seasons ago he averaged 11 points and 11 rebounds a game in a key role for a Portland Trailblazers team that reached the NBA Playoffs. Those numbers, he says, prove he is far from finished being a productive player in the league at only 30 and is evidence of an unspoken agreement within the league to keep him sidelined.

“Let me give you a very easy stat, it is not rocket science: [in 2020-2021], I played for the Portland Trail Blazers and averaged a double-double,” Freedom explained. “We made the playoffs. And they are telling me that six months later, I forgot how to play basketball? Even the kids on the streets will laugh at that notion. 

“I believe I could start in many cases right now, but because the things I say are hurting the NBA financially, they wanted me out of the league,” he continued. “It’s that simple. I just turned 30, and they are pushing me to retire. I can play another six or seven years easily. But unfortunately, with a league like this and with the players in it like this, it looks like it’s not possible.

Freedom’s best season in the NBA came during a 2014-2015 campaign with the Oklahoma City Thunder when he averaged 18.7 points and 11 rebounds a game. He was selected with the third pick overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2011 NBA Draft and went on to play for the Thunder, Knicks, Trail Blazers, and Celtics.