Skip to main content

South Valley Riverton Journal

Inaugural Mayor’s Freedom Award presented to Enes Kanter Freedom

May 08, 2023 12:35PM ● By Peri Kinder

Enes Kanter Freedom (center) was presented with the Mayor’s Freedom Award by Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs (left). U.S. Rep. Burgess Owens (right) also attended the inaugural award ceremony that recognized Freedom for standing up for human rights around the globe. (City Journals)

Enes Kanter Freedom was in Europe when he learned the Turkish government had placed a bounty on his head, offering $500,000 for his capture. The former Utah Jazz player said his platform of speaking out against human rights violations and the lack of civic freedoms in Turkey and other countries placed him on Turkey’s most-wanted terrorists list

To honor his commitment to free speech, Riverton Mayor Trent Staggs invited Freedom to Riverton to receive the inaugural Mayor’s Freedom Award, where Staggs proclaimed April 12 as Enes Freedom Day in the city. 

“I think it’s important for us, here in America and as residents of Riverton, to appreciate the freedom we have and how fragile it can be,” Staggs said. “Enes has chosen his God-given platform to raise awareness for these issues, not just here but also across the world.”

In a ceremony at the Old Dome Meeting Hall in Riverton Park, Staggs spoke about the courage it takes to stand up to tyrannical governments, especially when it could bring danger to yourself or your family.

“Enes has taken on some big opponents,” Staggs said. “It may be unusual to use a David and Goliath comparison given his size, but he has truly taken on some goliaths in the shape of the country of Turkey, China, as well as the NBA.”

Freedom became a U.S. citizen in November 2021, changing his last name to Freedom to bring awareness to human rights abuses around the globe. He often condemns Turkey and Venezuela and is convinced he’s been blackballed by the NBA for speaking out against China’s actions against people in Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. 

As the number three overall draft pick in 2011, Freedom started his career with the Utah Jazz and played here for four years before being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s also played with the New York Nicks and Portland Trail Blazers, and last played for the Boston Celtics. After he was traded to the Houston Rockets in 2022, the Rockets waived Freedom and he’s had no offers from any other NBA team. 

“We should feel very blessed and very lucky to be in a country, be in a state, be in a city like this because on the other side of the world, just because people don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of protest, they are jailed for life,” Freedom said. “With this award, it just gives me so much hope because it shows me that I’m not alone.”

Staggs said Freedom will always have a home in Riverton, crediting him for being an advocate for free speech and not turning a blind eye to human rights violations, despite the challenges that have come with speaking out. 

Freedom has voiced the idea of running for public office where his ideas can be amplified. He’s not backing down and invites people to stand with him. 

“Until one of those crazy billionaires finds another planet to live on, this world is all we have,” he said. “So we have to make this world better together.” λ