Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter is legally changing his name to "Enes Kanter Freedom," according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Kanter will be his new middle name, with Freedom as his new last name, which should therefore eventually be the name that appears on his jerseys. Kanter, who grew up in Turkey, will also become a U.S. citizen on Monday, according to Charania.
Kanter has been vocal about social issues this season particularly as they relate to the NBA's relationship with China. He has criticized several important figures around the league, most notably LeBron James, for his inaction on matters relating to China along with James' hesitance to publically advocate for the COVID-19 vaccine. In the past, Kanter has also been a vociferous critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There have been several warrants for Kanter's arrest issued in Turkey related to that criticism, but American citizenship gives him another layer of protection in speaking out.
Kanter is not the first NBA player to change his name in this matter. Notably, then-Los Angeles Lakers forward Ron Artest changed his name to Metta World Peace during his career, and then-Warriors wing Lloyd Bernard Free changed his name to World B. Free in 1981. Kanter wore the word "Freedom" on the back of his jersey in the Orlando bubble in 2020, when players were allowed to wear social justice messages on their jerseys. Now, it will seemingly be a permanent change.
Kanter has not played much this season. He has averaged only 4.2 points in 11.2 minutes per game for a Celtics team that has prioritized other players in front of him. That has not stopped him from using his platform as an NBA player to speak about issues that matter to him, though, and with this name change, it doesn't appear as though he plans to stop any time soon.