LeBron James is taking his 'freedom for granted' with Brittney Griner comments, Enes Kanter Freedom says
- Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia on drug smuggling charges since February.
- LeBron James questioned why the WNBA star would want to return to the US, given the government's slow response.
NBA journeyman and outspoken activist Enes Kanter Freedom slammed LeBron James for his recent comments about WNBA superstar Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia for five months.
During a preview of an upcoming episode of "The Shop," James questioned why Griner would "want to go back to America" given how long it's taken the US government to take action on her case. The Los Angeles Lakers superstar later clarified via Twitter that he "wasn't knocking our beautiful country. I was simply saying how she's probably feeling emotionally..."
But Freedom challenged James on the matter, calling his follow-up "a walk back."
"You are free to leave buddy or you can even volunteer for an exchange for her," Freedom tweeted Tuesday. "Some people literally have NO idea what is it like to live in a dictatorship."
"Keep taking your freedom for granted," he added.
—Enes FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) July 13, 2022
Freedom, who was raised in Turkey, has become known as an outspoken critic of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his regime, which has put out warrants for the basketball player's arrest for his political views. Freedom, who changed his legal name from Kanter in 2021, has regularly used his platform to champion anti-authoritarian, pro-independence causes. Griner's ongoing detainment in Russia certainly fits under that umbrella.
The seven-time WNBA All-Star was arrested at a Moscow airport in February after authorities said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Last week, she pleaded guilty to large-scale transportation of drugs — a move experts say could help expedite her return home.
Griner has plenty of incentive to return to the US as soon as possible. Sources have told Insider that Russian prison is not a pleasant place for anyone but is an especially hostile environment for Americans.
Plus, as Jonathan Franks — a hostage-negotiation expert who helped negotiate for the freedom of a Trevor Reed, another American detained by Russia — previously told Insider, a 6-foot-9 Black woman is "kind of rare in Russia." And given the state's hostile stance toward LGBTQ people and their lack of legal protections against discrimination, Griner's status as an out lesbian makes her a target for ridicule.
"It's almost like they're putting her out there to be guffawed at," Franks said. "I think that's shameful and says it all about this regime and their system."
He added that the US government needed to do "whatever it takes to bring her home" along with a fellow American detainee, Paul Whelan. "I've already explained my particular concern about Brittney as a Black LGBT woman," he said. "I don't trust that regime with LGBT people."
The Biden administration has been in touch with the Russian government to try to help facilitate the WNBA star's release. President Joe Biden has written a letter to Griner in detainment and has talked to her wife, Cherelle, on the phone.
Sources have repeatedly told Insider the two-time Olympic gold medalist's best chance of returning stateside anytime soon involves a prisoner exchange with Russia. Several experts explained that an unorthodox two-for-one swap involving Whelan and the notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout could be the key to Griner's freedom.
Even Bout's sentencing judge — Shira A. Scheindlin, who was a federal judge at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York when she gave Bout a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison — told Insider she didn't "think it would be wrong to trade him" in exchange for Griner and Whelan.
"I'm not saying he's an innocent guy, don't get me wrong," Scheindlin said, adding that the 11 years Bout had served so far nevertheless represented "a pretty hefty amount of time in a person's life."
"The US interest in punishing him has been satisfied, in my opinion," she said.
Griner made her first Russian court appearance since she submitted her guilty plea on Thursday. Neither a verdict nor a sentence came from the hearing, and she's due back in court Friday morning.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist faces up to 10 years in Russian prison.
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