Here are two true things about me: I am a lifelong supporter of human rights; I am not the captain of the Los Angeles Lakers, the most popular basketball team in North America, or so my plebeian friends tell me. Unfortunately, the National Basketball Association—conventionally known as simply the “NBA,” although I reserve my diminutives and nicknames for those I consider friends—is not allowing me to play, despite the fact that I have the talent to do so. I am not on the Lakers’ roster, and I support human rights. One can only assume that the former stems from the latter.
It gets worse. I am not the only brave truth-speaker whose stances on human rights are currently keeping me from NBA glory—glory that, I cannot stress enough, I would assuredly achieve due to my basketball skills. There is also the matter of Enes Kanter Freedom, erstwhile interior player for teams uch as the Jazz of Utah and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is both, A) an outspoken advocate for the human rights of people oppressed by the Chinese government and, B) unemployed by any NBA team. Several of my esteemed colleagues in and around the Beltway—spanning the full spectrum of serious political ideologies from “notionally centrist conservative” to “ravening blood and soil nationalist”—have noted this rank hypocrisy. Kanter Freedom started calling out the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims this year, and yet after the trade deadline (this is an NBA mechanic somewhat similar to election day), he has been canceled from the NBA. Needless to say, this sets a dangerous precedent.
My liberal colleagues at esteemed radical leftist outlets like the Washington Post and The Atlantic have bravely pointed this out. “The reason he no longer plays basketball has nothing to do with his performance on the court,” Marc Theissen wrote for WaPo. While best known as a serial advocate for foreign wars, Theissen also writes with about Kanter’s exile with a passion that only true “fans” can know. “The Chinese regime might have the power to silence its critics at home,” he concludes. “But for the NBA to help a totalitarian dictatorship reach into this country and punish one of its leading critics is a disgrace.”
This is not just an emotional argument, so let’s do the math. Freedom was selected third in the NBA Draft 10 years ago, which means he is, at absolute worst, the 30th best player to enter the NBA in the past decade. There are 30 teams in the league. Surely at least 27 of them would have use for the 2009 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship bronze medalist. This fact pattern certainly suggests that there should be a spot for him in some team’s starting lineup. And assuredly there would be—if only he was willing to stop from speaking his truth at places like CPAC, Fox News, this Koch-funded cutout, Voice Of America, and this American Enterprise Institute guy’s podcast. Freedom can do no other, but the league’s elite seems to have concluded that he cannot do it as a member of their Association.
The NBA, in bed with communist China, has made its position clear. If you have undeniable basketball skills but also a commitment to human rights, you will not have a spot in the league. It is why I am not the Lakers captain, and also why Freedom has been shamefully drummed out of the league. Even before his cancelation by pro-China forces, Freedom had been in the process of getting marginalized. I defer here to the Atlantic’s George Packer, who points out that Freedom had been playing the lowest number of minutes per game in his career.
“He accused the Celtics of benching him for his anti-China activism; the Celtics pointed to his difficulties defending the pick-and-roll,” Packer writes. I don’t know what that means, and my point stands. If the NBA wants to show that it cares about human rights—really cares, in the correct way—it will immediately reinstate Freedom, who absolutely has the basketball talent to play in the NBA, and also make me the captain of the Los Angeles Lakers. Anything short of this would be playing into Xi Jinping’s hands.