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Brad Stevens clears the air after Enes Freedom calls Celtics ‘hypocrites’ for wearing Ukraine pins

Enes Freedom wore sneakers protesting human rights violations during a December 2021 game, before he was traded from the Celtics.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

After Celtics coaches wore pins showing support for Ukraine, former Boston forward Enes Freedom — formerly Enee Kanter — called out their decision on social media.

“Hypocrites!” Freedom tweeted, saying he believed the team (and the NBA) has shown a double standard in making political statements on behalf of human rights.

“Why is it okay to speak up about human rights violations there but not in other countries?” Freedom asked. “Is there not much profit from Russia?”

Freedom specifically cited his 2021 decision to wear special shoes that showed support for Taiwan as an example of the difference. Then a member of the Celtics, he claimed the team did not support his choice.


“How is it fair when I wore shoes to bring awareness about human rights violations around the world, Celtics begged me to remove them and threatened to ban me,” Freedom wrote. “Celtics now wear Ukrainian flag pins.”

The Boston Herald spoke with Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens about the matter Tuesday, and Stevens offered a different version of events.

The issue with Freedom’s shoes, Stevens said, was specific to a possible NBA uniform policy violation.

Sneakers worn by Enes Freedom are seen as he stands on the court before a Celtics-Wizards game in January.Nick Wass/Associated Press

“I was actually at home, and when he decided to wear the sneakers, there was some concern — and I didn’t even know until the end of the first quarter — that there was a potential uniform or dress code violation,” Stevens said. “I don’t know what was said — I can’t imagine that phrasing was said — but the question to me was what to do about Enes’ shoes.”

Stevens said that he checked with the NBA to see if there would be an issue.

“Double-checked, fine, and he wore those the rest of the game and he wore whatever he wanted the rest of the year,” Stevens said.


“It’s interesting, because I feel really good that we truly sat here and supported him and his right to express himself and his freedom of speech, and I even told him the next day that you know I’ve always done that.”

Stevens said there was one more follow-up conversation in which he reaffirmed his support for Freedom but asked to be notified in advance the next time so he wouldn’t be “checking on these things in the middle of the first quarter from my couch at home.”

The Celtics executive said there was no more discussion of it after that.

Enes Freedom was traded from Boston to Houston last month.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

“We didn’t talk about anything after that, because we weren’t checking from that point forward,” Stevens said. “Wear whatever you want.”

Freedom was traded last month to the Rockets, who released him several days later. He remains a free agent.

Stevens insisted that “Enes is a good guy” with a “good heart,” and that the decision to trade him was motivated more out of a desire to bring Daniel Theis back to Boston.

“When we decided to trade Enes, it was 1,000 percent a basketball decision,” Stevens said. “Obviously the opportunity to bring Theis back with our defensive identity, and his mobility and the ability to play the way we wanted to as an eighth or ninth guy, just made too much sense for us.”