Toting a new last name that he said honors his liberties as an American, Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom became a naturalized US citizen Monday at a ceremony in the federal courthouse in Boston.
“America has taught me so much,” he said after the ceremony at the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse. “Here, people should feel blessed. You have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of press . . . I want to carry that word [freedom] with me everywhere I go.”
After completing his oath in court, Freedom smiled, waving a miniature American flag in celebration. He wore a dark T-shirt adorned with the American flag, which read “U.S. Citizen est. 2021.”
“I’ve waited for this moment for like, six years now, and it’s finally happened. It’s like a dream come true,” he said. “So you can call me Mr. Freedom.”
He said he will keep “Kanter” as his middle name to honor his parents, who he expects are “very proud.” He said he hasn’t seen them since 2015.
Freedom was born in Turkey, but has been exiled from his home country for his criticism of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“How can I stay silent? There are tens of thousands of people — including teachers, doctors, members of the judiciary and military, lawyers, bureaucrats, journalists, and activists — in prisons for years just because they’re not die-hard followers of Erdogan,” he wrote in a Globe Opinion op-ed in October 2019.
Freedom is well-known for his criticisms of the Turkish and Chinese governments, and said he doesn’t fear the consequences of speaking out, as he believes he’s doing “God’s work.”
“I am fortunate to have a public platform to voice my opinions, and I never forget the responsibility that comes with it. We are people before we are athletes,” he wrote in a Globe Opinion op-ed in September 2020. “I have previously used this platform to voice concerns about the abuse of human rights in my home country of Turkey — and I will also use it to speak against racial inequalities in the United States and elsewhere. The United States is my second home. It accepted and welcomed me as a teenager, and I owe it to its people to give back.”
Freedom has called on the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Winter Olympics from Beijing, calling the oppression of Uyghurs by the Chinese government a “genocide.”
“There’s a genocide happening while we’re talking right now,” he said Monday. “Shame on the International Olympic Committee that are organizing an Olympic Games this winter in China, where all these [human rights] violations are happening. That’s not acceptable.”
Freedom said after being exiled from his home country, it’s nice to have a new place to call home.
“I didn’t have a home. They revoked my passport. I was getting death threats like two or three times a week,” he said. “Now, there is a place I can call home.”
He said fans can expect to see “Freedom” on his jersey at the next Celtics game on Wednesday against the Philadelphia 76ers.
Katie Redefer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.