Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
ORLANDO – Legendary NFL sideline reporter Michele Tafoya and CPAC organizer Matt Schlapp said they found the timing of NBA center Enes Kanter Freedom’s release suspicious, and potentially tied to Freedom’s willingness to speak at CPAC.
Tafoya and Schlapp shared the CPAC stage for a brief conversation Friday morning and bemoaned Freedom’s inability to find an NBA job.
Freedom, who backed out of participating in CPAC, began the season with the Boston Celtics, but was recently traded to and released from the Houston Rockets.
“Within 72 hours [of being invited to CPAC], he lost his contract,” Schlapp said. He then asked Tafoya how this development made her feel.
“I’m fairly certain that’s a calculated move,” Tafoya said. “How do we get rid of Enes without it [seeming] like we are.”
Tafoya said she’d been in touch with Freedom, who became a U.S. citizen last year having immigrated from Turkey.
“He’s hanging in there,” Tafoya said. “He would like to get another job in the NBA.”
Freedom, one of the few NBA players who vocally opposes China and Chinese atrocities, has a long history of speaking out even when doing so carries a steep price for him.
He gained notoriety in 2016 when he called Turkish President Recep Erdoğan “the Hitler of our time,” criticism that ended with Freedom being disowned by his father and facing arrest and persecution when he travels outside the borders of the United States.
More recently, he’s criticized LeBron James and other high-profile NBA players as lacking in knowledge of Chinese human rights violations.
“He has been a portrait of courage,” Tafoya said. “He would wear shoes during warmups of an NBA game [that said] things about China: slavery, the Uyghurs. The NBA didn’t like it. They begged him take those shoes off, some of them did. He never did … That kind of courage, we need more of it, and I hope, collectively, we find it.”
Tafoya recently took a bold step of her own, choosing to resign from her post at NBC sports to “help make a difference somewhere.” Recently, she announced her intention to help Republican Kendall Qualls in his bid for the governorship of Minnesota.