Former Utah jazz center Enes Kanter Freedom doesn’t expect to play in the NBA or Europe again because of his outspoken views on human rights abuses in China and around the world .
But the Turkish big man has recently received calls from WWE to become a professional wrestler.
“I’m not kidding,” he told Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart’s annual security conference in Salt Lake City on Friday. Freedom was among several speakers who spoke about global issues, particularly China.
One of the wrestlers told him he could speak publicly about anything he wanted except Saudi Arabia. Freedom said he was told what China is for the NBA, Saudi Arabia for the WWE.
“It’s too late,” he said. “I have already mentioned them.
Freedom last played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics last season. He was traded to the Houston Rockets just before the league’s trade deadline in February. Houston waived shortly after, and he hasn’t heard from any NBA teams. At 30, he said he could play for another five or six years.
“Free agency is open for a month. Normally, I should have already received offers. This summer I haven’t received any offers,” Freedom told EuroHoops via Google Translate, SB Nation reported this week. “The reason is that I have spoken out about what is happening in China in recent months. The Chinese market is a big part of the NBA’s business. So they will allow you to talk freely about whatever you want until it’s hurting them financially. As soon as you do that, they’ll cut you off. It’s very sad and unacceptable.”
Freedom said he couldn’t play in the EuroLeague because he couldn’t enter Turkey and Turkish Airlines was a league sponsor.
At the conference, Freedom said he had recently established a foundation aimed at encouraging freedom, democracy and social harmony around the world. He said he also wanted to use basketball to bring people together. He flew to Salt Lake City from Israel where he organized a basketball camp that included Israeli and Palestinian children.
“It was one of the best basketball camps I’ve had,” he said. “This Jewish kid would pass to the Muslim kid and he would dribble the ball and pass to the Christian kid and he would score the ball, and they would clap their hands.”
According to Freedom, regardless of people’s culture, religion or skin color, they must learn to put aside their differences and find what they have in common.
“We only have one world to live in. Until one of these crazy billionaires finds another planet to live in, that world is what we have,” he said.
Born in Switzerland and raised in his parents’ native Turkey, he legally changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom to become a US citizen last November.
In addition to voicing his views on China more recently, Freedom criticized authoritarianism in Turkey early in his basketball career a decade ago. He has since been banned from Turkey.
The Jazz drafted Freedom with the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. He spent 31⁄2 seasons in Utah before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
After his release from the Rockets in February, Freedom said he did not receive a phone call or text from any of the hundreds of teammates and coaches he had with five teams during his 11 years of career. He said they feared he would mention their names in interviews or in social media posts as someone who supported him.
“I called them my brothers,” he said. “The last six, seven months have been very lonely for me.”