Former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom sounded off Tuesday on the reported threats from Iran’s authoritarian regime against families of the nation’s World Cup soccer players, after members of the team boycotted their national anthem in a prior game.
Kanter Freedom, who changed his last name to reflect the pride he feels as a Turkish-born American citizen in a country that values “freedom” unlike his homeland, said he similarly stands in solidarity with the Iranian protesters risking their own lives to picket President Ebrahim Raisi’s government.
Kanter Freedom told Fox News the U.S.-Iran match – which the United States won following just over 9 minutes of stoppage time 1-0 – is more than a soccer game to him.
“Right before the game, I just saw that the families of Iran’s world soccer team have been, you know, threatened with imprisonment and torture if the players fail to behave. And when I heard that, I was like I was I just couldn’t believe it. It was unacceptable,” he said.
“Kudos and applause to all the Iranian players that want to take the right stand but who have been getting so much pressure from their government.”
The basketball star has in the past has been vocal in support of human rights, publicly criticizing the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver for reputed closeness with China, a country similarly controlled by an authoritarian presidency.
Until he was eventually waived by the Houston Rockets, Kanter Freedom played for the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, notably wearing several NBA-rule-abiding but anti-CCP slogans such as “Free Tibet” and “Slave Labor” – the latter directed at shoemaker Nike.
On Tuesday, Kanter Freedom further criticized the treatment of Iran’s soccer team and the human rights protesters in Tehran, lamenting reports Iranian law enforcement has been “drafted” to monitor the players while they are in Qatar for the World Cup.
“[T]his is definitely unacceptable,” he said. “I’ve been praying for the brave Iranian protesters so hard every night, you know, I mean, we are seeing unshakable authoritarian regimes are now being shaken at their very core.”
Kanter Freedom said while Iranian civilians are risking their lives to denounce Raisi and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, he feels the same compassion for those in China who are similarly taking brave stands against the regime of President Xi Jinping, whose CCP had instituted draconian coronavirus lockdowns in Zhangzhou and elsewhere.
The protests in both autocratic countries bring him hope for the future, Kanter Freedom said, because it shows there is a growing global rejection of authoritarianism in favor of simple human rights otherwise respected across the western world.
“Whatever it costs, they are going to the streets and they are doing the best they can to first bring awareness – and say… that [they] want a freedom of speech, freedom of religion and of protest,” he concluded.
“I’ve been praying for them so hard, and I hope that things will change in countries like Iran, countries like China and countries like Russia.”