Enes Kanter meets with Archbishop Hieronymos in Athens - "Greeks and Turks are one family"

Enes Kanter Freedom

Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter met with the Archbishop Hieronymos of Athens and All of Greece on Wednesday while in Athens.

Kanter told the archbishop he had visited Greece several times before and believed that Turkish and Greek people "are one family".

The basketball player, known for his activism, said that the Turks leave their country because of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who he believes does not represent most Turks. He also expressed interest in the Greek Church's philanthropic work.

The archbishop said that peoples get along and clashes only relate to individuals and expressed the hope that "God enlightens all leaders in Turkey and Greece, even in the United States, so there is a spirit of love and unity."

Kanter Freedom, born in Switzerland to Turkish parents, was raised in Turkey and eventually granted American citizenship in 2021.

The NBA centre Enes is an outspoken critic of Erdoğan’s Turkey. Kanter said he became publicly critical of the Turkish president in 2013 due to the corruption scandal in Turkey.

After the failed 2016 coup d’état attempt, Kanter criticised Erdoğan on Twitter, calling him the “Hitler of our century.”

Soon after the coup attempt in July, Kanter’s family publicly disowned him due to his political views and his support for Fethullah Gülen.

His father was dismissed from his university position a few weeks later via government decree, as part of the 2016–2017 Turkish purges, and charged as a member of a terrorist group in 2018. He was arrested and released after being detained for five days.

Kanter had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017, and an arrest warrant was issued due to his membership in Hizmet, an Islamist fraternal movement. In September of that same year, Kanter described himself as stateless.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon took up Kanter’s cause, stating, “The United States must not stay silent in the face of such a blatant attack on free thought and expression.”

When the NBA player was granted US citizenship, he changed his surname to Freedom, keeping Kanter as a middle name.

Kanter has played for five NBA teams since entering the league in 2011, and between 2008-2015 he represented the Turkish national team in international play.

However, after his fallout with the Turkish authorities, Kanter’s NBA games have been censored in Turkey, and he’s had to forego international team trips because of the threat of arrest abroad.

It’s not only the Erdoğan regime that Kanter has openly criticised, however.

In 2021, he condemned Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator” and expressed his support for the Free Tibet movement on Twitter. In retaliation, the Chinese government stopped streaming all Boston Celtics games.

Later that year, Kanter led a rally in Washington D.C., urging the US Congress to pass a law that would limit imports from areas where China has oppressed Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and Kyrgyz minorities.

He has also advocated the boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to be held in China.

After Kanter was waived from his most recent contract with the Boston Celtics, he claimed he was pushed out of the NBA to appease the Chinese state. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver denied the claim.