Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe reports on the recent naturalization of Boston Celtics center, Enes Kanter Freedom, writing:
In one of the most meaningful moments of his life, the gregarious Enes Kanter Freedom had to be himself.
He appeared Monday at the Joseph Moakley Courthouse to officially become a US citizen wearing a black T-shirt in 30-degree weather that read: “U.S. Citizen: est. 2021.’’ His application for his name change and citizenship was a formality. Both were approved quickly as he spent more time taking photos and shaking hands with court officials.
“We did it,’’ he said. “I waited for this for like six years now. It’s finally happened. It’s like a dream come true. You can call me Mr. Freedom.’’
Walking out of the courtroom into the cool evening, Kanter Freedom looked like a man who had just unloaded years of stress and anxiety off his broad shoulders. For years he was a man without a home. He was banished from his native Turkey in 2017 for openly criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He hasn’t seen his parents in nearly a decade. While Kanter Freedom is one of the friendlier players in the NBA, he acknowledged he has received multiple death threats for his opinions on Turkey and the treatment of Uyghurs, who are of Turkish descent, in China.
It’s been a lonely journey for Kanter Freedom. Sometimes he’s been a man on an island screaming about injustices he feels are largely ignored by his athletic brethren. But he won’t quiet down. He won’t relent.
“America has taught me so much,’’ he said. “You’ve got freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of press. Just because of what you guys are writing, you guys are not in jails. But so many of your colleagues in Turkey are suffering and are in jail because they are doing their job. I want to carry that word [freedom] with me everywhere I go.’’
Kanter Freedom is unapologetic about his stances and his opinions. He fully understands that the NBA wants a positive relationship with China because of its financial investment in the league. Chinese folks buy sneakers, too. Many are big NBA fans but also protective over any criticism of their country.
Because of Kanter Freedom’s opinions, many of which were written on his sneakers during games, China pulled Celtics games from television in October. Kanter Freedom’s messages have become stronger and more profound, and he believed until recently that his actions were costing him minutes on the floor.
Celtics coach Ime Udoka, who said he has not had extensive conversations about Kanter Freedom’s off-court comments, said it was more the team’s depth at center and Kanter Freedom’s struggles on defense limiting his playing time.
Recently, when Robert Williams went down with knee issues and a non-COVID illness, Kanter Freedom has played meaningful minutes, including the entire fourth quarter in the Celtics’ 109-97 win Sunday over the Raptors.
Kanter Freedom said his social messages expanded beyond Turkey after he hosted a basketball camp where a camper’s father asked how could he consider himself a spokesman for human rights when he’s ignoring the situation in China. Kanter Freedom said he was embarrassed and promised the father to research the issues.
“The more I studied, the most I seen all the violations were happening [with Uyghurs] in China,’’ he said. “And when China is involved, there’s so many athletes, singers, rappers, celebrities who are scared because obviously whatever they talk about is going to affect their business and endorsement deals and contracts.
“To me, I don’t care about any of that stuff. Morals, principles and values are way more important than endorsement deals they can offer me.’’
Kanter Freedom went on to admonish the International Olympic Committee for holding the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and he has also gone after Lakers star LeBron James for his silence on what Kanter Freedom believes is Nike’s exploitation of Uyghurs in labor camps. James is one Nike’s biggest spokespersons.
“I’m definitely calling out, not just athletes, but all these governments and countries, to boycott the Olympics,’’ Kanter Freedom said.
And he said he has no fear, despite the threats and vitriol on social media.
“This is God’s work,’’ he said. “I’m not scared of anybody. I’m not scared of China, anyone I’m outspoken against because I know I’m doing this for innocent people.’’
Kanter Freedom said his teammates wanted to give him a party but he said he just wanted some cupcakes. Although many of his teammates may not agree or understand his stances, they respect his opinions. That’s all he asks.
“My teammates [in past years] were the ones who give me the motivation to fight for what’s right,’’ he said. “It definitely means a lot to me. They were my family. They gave me a welcome from Day One. They became like my brothers, good days and bad days.’’
Kanter Freedom got into a high-profile dispute with NBA star Lebron James on Twitter, posting criticism of James’ silence on issues surrounding China.
Money over Morals for the “King” 👑
Sad & disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice
They really do “shut up & dribble” when Big Boss 🇨🇳 says so
Did you educate yourself about the slave labor that made your shoes or is that not part of your research? pic.twitter.com/YUA8rGYeoZ
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) November 18, 2021
At the same time Kanter Freedom is enjoying his new citizenship in America, the people of his former home, Turkey, are enduring a currency slide, as the Turkish lira drops quickly in value.
You can see how much strong the dollar has grown compared to the lira in the chart below.
The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board calls it the “Erdogan Lira Crisis,” writing:
One currency crisis in a career is usually more than enough for any politician. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t content with only one currency crisis a year. Which is how the lira has come to be plunging headlong into its second disaster of 2021 as Mr. Erdogan sticks to policies that are hammering Turkey’s middle class.
The lira has lost more than a third of its value relative to the dollar this year, and all signs are that inflation is spiking again. Official measures of inflation have approached 20% year-on-year in recent months. Monetary expert Steve Hanke at Johns Hopkins University estimates the true rate is above 66%. Households are abandoning the lira and stockpiling dollars instead, while companies are finding it difficult to borrow abroad and instead must dip into their cash reserves.
It has taken some doing for Mr. Erdogan to hobble Turkey’s economy this way given the post-pandemic recovery that was gathering steam. The economy rebounded more than 21% year-on-year in the second quarter. Data due Tuesday are likely to show a strong third quarter as well, with tourism and household consumption leading the way. But that was before the new crisis.
The cause, as usual, has been Mr. Erdogan’s insistence that high interest rates cause inflation. He appears to draw inspiration from principles of Islamic finance, Mr. Hanke notes. Mr. Erdogan triggered the lira’s previous crisis, in March, when he fired Naci Agbal from the leadership of the central bank for raising the benchmark rate to 19% to tame double-digit inflation.
That event, in which Mr. Agbal was replaced by Erdogan loyalist Sahap Kavcioglu, triggered a depreciation of some 13% in the lira over two weeks even though a round of interest-rate reductions didn’t begin until September. The warning is that monetary stability is as much about institutional credibility as about policy. Mr. Erdogan’s politicization of the central bank has undermined both.
Turkey’s doubts about Mr. Kavcioglu have proven justified as he launched a new cycle of rate reductions in September. The latest cut, to 15% in early November, helped trigger the current crisis, and at least one more reduction in December may be on the way. Mr. Erdogan on Monday said he remains opposed to a rate increase, while another leader in his party suggested last week that Turks buy less food. Let them eat cake, but less of it.
The good news is that Turkey’s currency mess doesn’t seem to be spreading across borders. Emerging-market contagion has diminished in recent years as investors grow less inclined to punish all developing economies for the policy sins of a few. The unknown is how long Turkish banks and companies can weather the new storm and how much more damage the economy can or will withstand.
Turkey’s mess is nonetheless instructive for other emerging-market nations, and even for the still developing nation that is the United States. Monetary-policy independence and credibility, once lost, are hard to regain.
Action Line: Don’t be confused by self-proclaimed “kings” or dictators, Freedom is always the best way forward. I can help you maximize your freedom if you’re serious. Click here to sign up for my free monthly Survive & Thrive newsletter, where I will motivate you to take your freedom into your own hands, and prepare your family for what lies ahead. But only if you’re serious.
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) November 30, 2021
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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