by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Enes Kanter Freedom, a center for the Boston Celtics, has plenty of fans, many of them in high places. There is Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, who became friends with Kanter while mayor of Boston. The New York congressional delegation, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, also knows the 6-foot-10 big man from his days with the Knicks. Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, often grabbed dinner with Kanter when he played for the Portland Trail Blazers.
For a professional athlete then, Kanter is especially adept at navigating halls of power. Despite all of those D.C. connections, there are two people he can’t seem to reach: President Biden and Vice President Harris.
Kanter tells RealClearPolitics he has been trying, through established back channels for more than a year, to set up a meeting with the White House to discuss human rights abuses in Turkey and China. “Every time we try to reach out,” the outspoken and well-connected athlete said, “They always say, like, ‘We will get back to you.’ They never do.”
Of course, he isn’t alone. Everyone in Washington wants an audience with the president. These days, even top Democratic donors are grumbling in the press about their lack of access. But Biden World has never been averse to stars, especially when they can lend their celebrity to administration efforts. …
… Kanter Freedom hasn’t received this kind of royal treatment. Perhaps it’s because he’s not an NBA starter, although he does have millions of followers between his social media accounts and he does have a knack for self-promotion: He legally changed his name from Enes Kanter to Enes Kanter Freedom late last year, so that “Freedom” is on the back of his jersey.
But this may be the underlying problem. Like many of the celebrities who received a White House invitation, Kanter Freedom has talked publicly about the importance of vaccines. He’s far better known, however, for his stance on human rights and his condemnation of regimes that abuse them, Turkey and China in particular.