Former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom, unceremoniously removed from the Boston Celtics roster after publicly condemning the Chinese Communist Party, spent much of this week in Florida meeting with members of the Cuban exile community and lending messages of hope and solidarity against communism.
Kanter Freedom filmed a video in support of the pro-democracy movement in Cuba on Monday alongside anti-communist rapper El Funky and fellow athlete Yordenis Ugás, a boxing champion who successfully defected from the island on his seventh try and was imprisoned six times prior for attempting to leave. Ugás has used his freedom in America to encourage Cubans on the island to continue protesting and force the 63-year-old communist regime out of power.
The video, and Kanter Freedom’s visit to Florida, follows an initial message on the anniversary of the July 11, 2021, protests honoring those arrested and silenced after calling for an end to the regime, as well as years of Kanter Freedom’s activism against allies of the Castro regime such as China, Turkey, and Venezuela.
To my all Cuban brothers and sisters around the world,
We have a message for you,
from Myself, from Yordenis Ugás and from El Funky.
— Enes FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) July 25, 2022
“Do not ever lose hope,” Kanter Freedom says in the video. “To all my Cuban brothers and sisters, believe me, one day we are going to go to a free Cuba and have some delicious Cuban coffee.”
“My message to the Cuban regime is: every dictatorship is going to fall and you are going to fall and, trust me, the Cuban people will have their freedom again,” Kanter concluded.
El Funky, one of Cuba’s most high-profile anti-communist rappers, asked in the video for the Cuban people not to “lose faith or hope … we are here in the exile community supporting you.” The rapper is one of the artists responsible for the 2021 song “Patria y Vida,” (“Fatherland and Life”), which has become a protest anthem and its title a rallying cry against the communist slogan patria o muerte (“fatherland or death”).
Ugás – who was punished with banishment from his island for nine years following his defection, preventing him from seeing his family – similarly urged in the messages with Kanter Freedom, “the struggle has to continue.”
“We have to keep the faith; after 63 years, they don’t have much left,” Ugás said.
Kanter Freedom spent the rest of his time in Miami meeting other victims of the communist regime in Cuba and leaders in Miami’s political community, who praised him for giving up prominence in the NBA to stand up for his principles.
“This is a man who sacrificed, not just his life, but his dream that he worked his whole life for,” Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) told the Miami-based Spanish network América Teve in an interview this week. “He was working as a professional basketball player here in the NBA and for the simple reason that he expressed himself in defense of human rights, but particularly for human rights in communist China, he has been censored, he has lost his career, they don’t allow him to speak, he lost all the contracts he had.”
— Mario J. Pentón (@MarioJPenton) July 23, 2022
Kanter Freedom, who became an advocate for pro-democracy causes around the world after suffering years of persecution by his native Turkey, spent much of his NBA career condemning Islamist Turkish strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan’s regime responded by issuing over nine arrest warrants for the athlete on spurious charges of terrorism and unsuccessfully pressuring Interpol to help Turkey arrest him.
Kanter Freedom is a member of an Islamic movement called Hizmet that Erdogan’s Turkey has falsely branded a terrorist organization and actively persecutes. Erdogan blames the movement’s leader, Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, for the failed alleged coup in Turkey in 2016; American officials have stated that Turkey has presented no meaningful evidence linking the elderly cleric to the event.
Kanter Freedom’s advocacy for a free Turkey did not in any way impact his NBA career – though Erdogan arrested his father and forced his family to publicly condemn him. However, when he began wearing sneakers on NBA courts with messages in support of the various groups the Chinese Communist Party violently represses – Tibetans, Uyghurs, and Falun Gong practitioners in particular – the Chinese government began censoring NBA games, affecting the league’s finances. The Boston Celtics shadow-benched Kanter Freedom in November and ultimately dropped him before the end of last season, leaving him without a team and out of the NBA.
The Chinese Communist Party enjoys friendly relations with Islamist Turkey despite currently engaging in a genocide of Muslim Turkic peoples in East Turkistan, making it a natural foe for Kanter Freedom. The Chinese and Turkish regimes also maintain economic and political ties with Cuba and Venezuela, whose dictators Kanter Freedom has condemned. Erdogan and Venezuelan socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro, in particular, have publicly supported each other against human rights activists and U.S. sanctions.
“Maduro brother, stand tall, Turkey stands with you,” Erdogan told Maduro during a 2019 phone call, according to his presidential spokesman.
Erdogan’s Turkey debuted a park honoring murderous Cuban communist dictator Fidel Castro in 2017 following the Communist Party’s announcement of his death in late 2016.
Kanter Freedom explained his stance against all dictatorships during an interview with Fox News in December as a divine calling.
“My goal was to not just talk about Turkey or China but all the dictatorships around the world. And I’m going to get them one by one,” Kanter Freedom said at the time. “Because I believe that this platform is given to me by God. And the one thing about me, I’m not scared of anything.”