Enes Kanter is a good NBA player. He is not a great one, but he does his job, knows his role, and contributes to the relative success of whatever team he happens to play for. This season is his first with the Boston Celtics and his fifth team in nine seasons. He is good enough to remain in the NBA. But he is not good enough to have a following or cult status like LeBron James or any of the other established superstars in the league.
So, it comes as no surprise that Kanter is not looked up to like they are – but he should be.
Lots of people – regular, everyday citizens and athletes alike – enjoy talking the talk when it comes to social activism. They like to talk about how aware (or ‘woke’) they are about the injustices in the world. But calling people out for a perceived or actual wrong on social media is as far as many people go in their so-called activism.
Many people do what President Obama recently cautioned against:
Since coming to the U.S., he has been a vocal critic of the oppressive regime back in his homeland of Turkey. As a result, he has been unable to see his family, who can’t leave the country, for years. His passport has been revoked, and an international arrest warrant has been issued for him. Death threats are an everyday part of life for him.
His siblings can’t find work, and his dad was jailed momentarily for being a ‘terrorist.’
He skipped a trip to London during his time with the Knicks because he feared it would be too dangerous for him to travel abroad. When his team goes to Toronto for a game, he stays home. He narrowly escaped being kidnapped in Indonesia. His life has been on the line because he chose to stand up for what he believes is right.
It is safe to say, with all he and his family have experienced, that no one would fault him if he decided to be quiet and fade away from the public eye. But does he? Despite the death threats and everything else, he continues to dedicate himself to fighting the good fight (via the Boston Globe):
Professional athletes have an enormous opportunity to be a source of inspiration for the younger generation, lead by example, and prove to them
that as long as you stand up for what you believe in, everything is possible….
I have a prominent platform, and I want to use it to promote respect for human rights, democracy, and personal freedom. For me, this is bigger than basketball. Being a champion of tens of thousands of voiceless people back in my home country carries a risk that includes death threats and arrest warrants.
That is a true warrior for social justice. He is someone willing to put it all on the line and make real sacrifices in defense of the greater good. Recently, he was in D.C. to introduce the Turkey Human Rights Promotion Act. While there, he also announced that he will become an American citizen:
This is not to say that the current group of socially active NBA players are not doing a good job. They, like Kanter, deserve credit for what they do as well as the respect and admiration of fans. However, when many of them were recently put to the test, they failed. They chose to prioritize financial gain over what was right.
They showed their true colors as activists of convenience. When speaking out meant the potential for financial loss, they remained quiet.
Kanter is never going to remain quiet. He may never score 50 points in a game, win MVP, or even play in the NBA Finals. But he is never going to back down from the real fight. He is not going to choose money over human rights.
That is someone we could all look up to, not just the ‘woke’ generation.