The New York Post reports that the country’s government placed the ex-NBA star on its most-wanted terrorists list for 2023, alongside a 10 million Turkish Lira—or $500,000 USD—bounty for his capture. This is the first time the country has offered money to catch someone on the list.
Freedom said he only discovered there was a bounty for him a week ago, calling the move “dangerous.” He told the Post, “Before the bounty, Turkish intelligence were after the people on the list, but now everyone is after them because they want the money.”
Freedom has been a fierce opponent of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the government’s human rights abuses, calling him a “dictator” and “Hitler.” Also included on Turkey Terrorist Wanted List are actual terrorists, journalists, and other dissidents who have been outspoken about the government.
“Because of my platform, whenever I say something, it goes everywhere and the Turkish government hates that,” Freedom said. “They’re really sick of it, and they said ‘enough is enough’ and are doing whatever they can to shut me up. … I’m speaking out because I am not the only one on that list. There are so many journalists, so many activists, and so many athletes, but they aren’t as well-known as me. They are way easier targets—and they’re alone out there.”
Enes Kanter Freedom—who was born in Switzerland, raised in Turkey, and is now an American citizen—played 11 seasons in the NBA, including with the New York Knicks and Boston Celtics. He was vocal about his opinions, including criticizing Chinese president Xi Jinping and the Chinese Community Party. His outspokenness led him to clash with the NBA, which earns billions from NBA fans in China.
Freedom feels his comments led him to being pushed out of the league, which the NBA has denied. “The NBA is never going to admit it, but I believe I’m being blackballed,” Enes told the NYP. “I’ve had many conversations and everyone is saying the same thing: ‘Your career has ended because of your China comments.’”
He is now looking to sue the league but is “waiting for the right time.”