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Former NBA center Enes Kanter Freedom says the Turkish government is offering $500,000 for information leading to his capture.
Speaking to Rikki Schlott of the New York Post, Freedom said he found out about the bounty last week when his name was included on Turkey’s most-wanted terrorists list for 2023.
“That makes it so dangerous,” he told Schlott. “Before the bounty, Turkish intelligence were after the people on the list, but now everyone is after them because they want the money.”
Freedom added he is “being protected 24/7,” but wants to speak out now because of the other names on the 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,” he explained.
Freedom has long been outspoken in his opposition to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The 11-year NBA veteran called Erdoğan the “Hitler of our century” in 2017. He made the comment after saying he was stopped at a Romanian airport and was being detained by police officers because Turkey’s embassy canceled his passport.
A Romanian border police spokesman told CNN’s Steve Almasy that Freedom did get stopped, but he was never detained and was free to move around the airport. Almasy noted he eventually left on a flight to London and arrived in the United States one day later.
In November 2021, Freedom became a U.S. citizen and legally changed his name to Enes Kanter Freedom.
Freedom, who has been a free agent since being waived by the Houston Rockets in February 2022, has said he thinks the NBA is blackballing him for speaking out about China’s government for its ongoing human rights abuses against the Uyghur people.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver told Sopan Deb of the New York Times in March that Freedom is free to speak his mind and denied any collusion to keep him out of the league.
Prior to being traded to the Rockets midway through last season, Freedom appeared in 35 games for the Boston Celtics. He has also played with the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers in his NBA career.