CLAY: I wanted to pivot here to a story that has actually been really positive in the world of sports. Most people who are in sports have not been paying attention to it. But it’s on Fox News. CNN, to their credit, has also covered it to a certain extent. It has to do with Enes Kanter, who is a center for the Boston Celtics, the NBA team. You guys know that sports has basically become politics by another name over the past several years.
And the most outspoken athletes in general have tended to be in the NBA. They wore slogans on the back of their jerseys. They have refused to stand for the national anthem. They refused to play games, memorably, after Jacob Blake was shot. That was a big swing and a miss. But what they’ve not done is be willing to hold any other countries to the same standard that they’re willing to hold the United States.
Now, my position… I wrote a whole book by this called Republicans Buy Sneakers, Too, which is a famous quote of Michael Jordan when he was asked why he wasn’t political. He said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too,” and my argument has been, look, as a capitalist I understand if you decide, “Hey, you know what? I really don’t want to get involved in politics because people who buy tickets to come watch our games, people who watch our games on television, they’re Republicans, Democrats, independents.
“They don’t really necessarily break down directly along political lines.” In other words, there are a lot of people out there who love the NBA, might have had courtside seats, and voted for Donald Trump. That percentage of the population exists, and there’s millions of them out there. Well, what I have argued is, it’s ridiculous for LeBron James to say, “I’m not just gonna shut up and dribble,” which is what he said, and then do that exactly for China.
So I’ve been waiting for an NBA player who was willing to actually speak out against China, and obviously this blew up in a big way because Daryl Morey — who is a general manager in the NBA — had the audacity to tweet support for Hong Kong freedom, and then everybody in the NBA basically ran the opposite direction. Wait a minute. You’re all outspoken about the importance of social justice in the United States but you won’t speak out in favor of basic human rights around the world?
So Enes Kanter has been calling out, Buck, all of these different athletes. He wore shoes against LeBron James that pictured LeBron James being crowned by Chairman Xi — remember LeBron James calls himself “King James” — kneeling at the foot of China’s dictator and receiving a crown. It was amazing that he would wear those shoes. He’s called out a lot of different aspects of the NBA and their response to China.
Almost no other player or coach has been willing to, and so he now has become a United States citizen and he has changed his last name to Freedom. He talked about that. His name is now Enes Kanter Freedom. On the back of his jersey he will have on his jersey is Freedom. This is significant because Enes Kanter is Turkish, and his family has been horribly treated by the dictator basically running Turkey. But here is Enes Kanter. Let’s play cut 18 talking about become a United States citizen.
CLAY: Okay. So congratulations to Enes Kanter Freedom who now has adopted that name as he has become a citizen of the United States. Buck, you don’t necessarily pay a lot of attention to the NBA although I think you said when you were a kid, you’d occasionally go to Knicks games in Madison Square Garden.
BUCK: I had family members that had season ticket to the Knicks for many years. My cousins. So I went out to a lot of Knicks games back when they called it “the Bomb Squad” and there was Trent Tucker, John Starks and had all these guys. Patrick Ewing, obviously, was their marquee player. They had a great team back then. I used to go, but obviously we didn’t have all these athletes with Twitter constantly dumping on America, the NBA.
It’s all over the place. So I really don’t watch the NBA as, largely now, a political decision. I just don’t want to support what they do. That said, Enes Kanter Freedom — which, by the way, he stole my idea. I was thinking maybe when I hit my 40th, I’d change my last name to Buck Freedom, which would be awesome, by the way. Think about all the T-shirts I could sell.
But he’s a reminder of… You mentioned that he’s left Turkey, that his home country is Turkey where Erdogan is effectively an authoritarian. It’s one of the worst places in the world, up there with China in terms of press freedom. In Turkey, you are not allowed to say certain things. There are plenty of journalists who have been put in prison for saying things the regime doesn’t like.
And so people that have experienced that have a particular love of freedom when they see it and know it when it’s actually around them. So there’s the inspirational component here of somebody who obviously is also a millionaire. He’s playing in the NBA, he’s come to this country, but he loves this country. And you have to wonder: How could anybody who’s in a similarly privileged status…? To be an elite athlete in America in the NBA, in any of the major professional sports leagues where you’re famous and rich and not feel incredibly blessed?
I mean, I think at some level, Clay, it’s not only that we would expect people to feel patriotic about a country that allows them to play a kids’ game for fame and fortune. But beyond that, it feels like how could you not just be a grateful person, right? So, LeBron James’ attitude is just creepy a lot of the time. People see it. They know it when he kicked the people out recently.
Enes Kanter is talking about how great America is. We all sit around saying, “Doesn’t everyone kind of think this place who lives here who’s at that level who’s experiencing America in this way?” Obviously there are immigrants who come here from China, from Cuba, from you name it, who have experienced authoritarianism, and they’re just happy to be here, right? It’s another thing to be here and become an American and become one of the very elite in this country. So the gratitude and the love of America is very much refreshing.
CLAY: And these guys know what the importance of American citizenship actually represents. One of the things that I think is a nonpartisan idea, a part of me thinks that if every American had to serve the country for a year maybe abroad where you saw what actually exists. I don’t mean go abroad and like go to Mexico and stay at a resort. I mean go to other countries in the world and understand what they actually do with, the people who live there.
That’s kind of what Enes Kanter said last night. If we play cut the ten, he was asked about Americans who criticize America. Many of the people out there who are criticizing America the most are not immigrants because the immigrants understand how fortunate they are to be here. Listen to Enes Kanter talk about Americans who criticize America.
FREEDOM: I’m gonna be honest. People should feel really blessed and lucky to be in America because, you know, they love to criticize it. But when you live a country like Turkey — or, you know, China or somewhere else — you appreciate the freedoms you have here, you know? So I feel like they should just please… They should just keep their mouth shut and stop criticizing the greatest nation in the world and they should focus on, you know, their freedoms and their human rights and democracy. So America gave me everything I have; so I definitely appreciate the United States of America.
BUCK: I don’t know if I’m gonna have room in my closet. Now I gotta get Aaron Rodgers jerseys for his standing up to the mandate machine, and I gotta get Freedom jerseys, right? It’s gonna say “Freedom” on the jersey, is it gonna say “Kanter Freedom,” or how they gonna do it?
CLAY: I think it’ll just say “Freedom.” Here’s the question. Are athletes finally starting to stand up and start abandoning the woke agenda? ‘Cause my argument for a long time has been athletics represents everything anti-woke, right? It’s a meritocracy. You are responsible for your own individual excellence. Professional athletics and the pursuit of athletic competence in general is the antithesis of everything woke because it’s about demonstrating elite talent.
The people who are the best get paid the most, and also ultimately you’re responsible for yourself. It’s been athletes and coaches are afraid to say anything, and when I see Aaron Rodgers — granted, he tested positive for covid, but when he — came out and he didn’t bow down and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry;” he said, “I think the covid mandate basically is stupid that the NFL has,” and when you see Enes Kanter coming out now and calling out LeBron James himself for the hypocrisy of ripping America while pocketing tons of money from China and the league itself, are athletes finally starting to get red-pilled themselves, Buck? I think the answer may very well be yes.
BUCK: There’s a huge market, obviously, right? You’re somebody that understands this on the sports side as an entrepreneur and somebody who’s built a very successful business in the sports realm, which is that people want sports, but they also want sports through the lens of sanity and loving America.
BUCK: It doesn’t have to be this spiteful, divisive, woke garbage that you see all the time. Now, there are gonna be athletes — a lot of them, and maybe it’s a huge majority of them — that still take that approach. But there’s obviously a big lane here for people. By the way, it doesn’t have to be partisan. It’s just what we’re talking about, gratitude, patriotism. How about we just start with that?
Grateful to be where they are and patriotic and show some love for their country. Doesn’t mean aw have opinions and disagree with people and other things publicly — and of course, they’re gonna do that anyway. But just starting from that premise instead of, “I’m always going to look for every opportunity possible to dump on America.
“As a multimillionaire celebrity who gets to play a kids’ game for fame and fortune, I’m going to constantly try to elevate myself among my peer group and essentially virtue signal by pretending America’s so awful.” You know? Yeah, if you’re a guy that’s been welding for 20 years and working hard with your hands and getting paid by the hour and you see that stuff going on, you might think to yourself, “I don’t want to watch these crybabies anymore.” I think a lot of people have taken that position. I kind of wish more would, quite honestly.
CLAY: I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, Buck. And what I would point out is — while we’re talking about Enes Kanter and Fox News and CNN have talked about him — you know who almost hasn’t talked about him at all? The sports media, because the sports media is even more woke than the political media.
BUCK: I know you’re right, but when you say this, I’m just like, “That can’t even be.” How could the sports media be more woke than the news media, which is 95% Democrat?
CLAY: Because there’s 5% that aren’t. Doesn’t exist in sports media.
BUCK: It’s amazing. It’s amazing how that even happens.
CLAY: I was the only person in sports media, the entire industry, to acknowledge that he was voting for Donald Trump. Not one other did! Now, there are other people who did. My DMs blew up with people who you see on television every night. They just said, “If I said I was voting for Donald Trump and I work at ESPN or I work at CBS or I work at NBC, I’m afraid I’d lose my job.”
BUCK: And they’re probably right.
CLAY: They’re probably right.
BUCK: They’re probably right. They’re on point there.