The Conservative Cringefest Over Enes Kanter
This above segment is cringe to the point of being hard to watch. Honestly, it sort of feels like those scenes where Borat awkwardly performs his understanding of Americana before a Red State audience that reflexively plays along.
Enes Kanter isn’t some actor’s caricature of a man just arrived, though. He’s a professional basketball player who’s been in the States for about a decade, though he’s new in the sense of recently taking a citizenship oath and officially changing his name to Enes Kanter Freedom. The Boston Celtics crowd gave their renamed backup center a rousing ovation on Wednesday night. Perhaps that’s not surprising in this “courage in shorter supply than genius” era, where a bold man can gain a following while not quite knowing where he’s going.
Kanter’s been all over the place, in media and in his statements. For instance, he’s ripped Michael Jordan over not uplifting the Black community, a seemingly out-of-nowhere broadside. Besides that, he’s made waves by attacking the hypocrisy of the NBA, Nike, and LeBron James, topics no other NBA player will touch. His direct criticism of Chinese leader Xi Jinping has led to a Celtics ban in China. These are pretty daring moves, even if it’s all happening as his NBA career ends.
No stranger to risk, Kanter has openly criticized the autocratic leader of his native land, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, leading Turkey to revoke his passport in 2017 and put out an international arrest warrant for Kanter in 2019. Kanter has ties to Fethullah Gülen, an exiled Turkish religious leader who lives in a massive compound out in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains. Gülen is blamed by Turkey’s government for a failed coup attempt back in 2017.
Who is funding Gülen’s lavish fiefdom in the Poconos? Why was Enes Kanter posing with neoconservative Iraq War architect John Bolton and thanking him for support? Whatever the possibly nefarious answers to these questions, you’d have to assume that Kanter Freedom is at least a fascinating character. He’s a literal international man of mystery, it seems.
Except, when I talk to people in the league about him, Kanter isn’t regarded as all that interesting. As in, this situation is more Being There than Live and Let Die. And look, I’m saying this more descriptively than pejoratively, because it’s germane to the post: In NBA circles, Kanter is not perceived as all that sharp. Just saying. On Substack, you get honesty.