Former NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom will speak to the conservative Republican Study Committee this week about his activism regarding China and the Uyghur genocide.
The former Boston Celtics center, now a free agent, has been a vocal critic of the NBA for continuing activities in China and other countries despite human rights abuses. He has accused the NBA of trying to silence him for speaking out on those issues, and legally added “Freedom” to his surname last year before being cut by the Celtics.
A Republican Study Committee spokesperson confirmed Kanter Freedom’s Wednesday lunch appearance to The Hill on Monday. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) — the chairman of the study committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House — praised the player’s “passionate support for freedom.”
“The US cannot continue to enable the ongoing Uyghur genocide in Xinjiang and other atrocities committed by the Chinese Communist Party. In the face of immense corporate opposition, Enes Freedom has stood up for what is right – no matter the consequences,” Banks said in a statement.
“I’m grateful for his continued and passionate support for freedom around the world and appreciate his endorsement of my legislation to hold China accountable,” he added.
Politico, which first reported on Kanter Freedom’s lunch visit, said he will advocate for a Uyghur labor sanctions bill Banks is preparing to introduce. That legislation, however, will not be revealed until Wednesday.
Kanter Freedom attended a Senate Republican Study Committee lunch in February, where he received standing ovations from the GOP lawmakers. The senators said his advocacy for human rights and criticism of China’s government was “very inspiring” and “amazing.”
During that appearance, the basketball player spoke about China’s increasing influence on the NBA, and noted that players and personnel who speak out against Beijing’s history with human rights are blacklisted.
Former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, now president of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, told ESPN that he was “really worried” about his family’s safety amid blowback from his tweet in 2020 supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protests.
Kanter Freedom has become a prominent critic of the governments in China and his native Turkey over the past few years. His criticism of China has focused on its alleged genocide against the Uyghers, a Turkic and Muslim minority.
President Biden in December signed a bill that sought to counter China for its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang. The U.S. has also claimed that China is carrying out a genocide against Uyghurs.
The bill passed the House in a voice vote before a compromise version cleared the Senate by unanimous consent. It specifically bans important from the Xinjiang region of China unless people or companies are able to proverb that the commodities or materials are produced without slave labor.
Emily Brooks contributed.