Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter addressed the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday, and he delivered a powerful message about why he uses his platform to stand for freedom — even at great risk to himself and his family.
"I am a basketball player, but I am more than an athlete," Kanter said. "You guys probably know some of the stuff going on between me and my country, Turkey. Just because I talk about freedom — freedom of religion and expression and speech, just because I talk about democracy and human rights issues — of course, me and my family get affected by it."
"My dad was a genetics professor and he got fired from his job, because I talk about these issues. My sister actually went to medical school for six years, and now she can't find a job because of her last name," Kanter continued. "So my family had to put a statement out their that said, 'We are disowning Enes.' I remember going to a practice that day, and it was probably the most awkward time in my whole life."
Now, his family faces punishment in Turkey if there is even any evidence that they have communicated with Kanter. Even disowning him wasn't enough — the police raided the Kanter home and confiscated all their electronic devices.
"If they were to see any text messages, emails, missed calls, they would be in trouble," Kanter said.
Still, it's all worth it to Kanter, who understands that his life is about more than just being a basketball player. It's his job, Kanter said, to speak for those who don't have a voice or a platform.
"We have a voice, and we need to use it because we have a platform," Kanter said. "What I'm trying to do is be a voice for all those innocent people who don't have one. People know my story because I play in the NBA, but there are lots of stories out there, there are families out there, their stories are way worse than mine. So I think it's very important to use the stage that God gives you, to go out there and inspire millions of people."
Kanter's willingness to speak for freedom and against injustice even when it costs him personally contrasts with other NBA players, such as LeBron James, who have been unwilling to publicly support pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong for fear of offending the Chinese government and risking their business relationships and endorsement deals.
"Basketball — when I look back, when I'm done with my career — you know a lot of people are thinking about looking back and saying 'I averaged 20 points, I averaged 10 rebounds', but when I look back, when I'm done with my career, look back and say, 'How many people did I inspire? How many hearts did I touch? How many lives did I change?'" Kanter said.
Enes Kanter Speaks at the Massachusetts House of Reps youtu.be