“They’re gonna learn from each other,” he said, “because it’s a team sport."
By: David Swindle | Jewish News Syndicate | December 12, 2023
Jews and Muslims have been coming together through the Abraham Accords in and around the Middle East. Now it’s time for the children of Abraham to suit up together on the basketball court. That’s according to the former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom, who announced on Sunday at the StandWithUs gala in Los Angeles that he’s planning a major sports diplomacy initiative.
“As someone who’s Muslim, it definitely breaks my heart to see how divided everyone is,” Freedom told JNS in an interview on Dec. 10, shortly before he addressed the gala audience on stage.
To bridge the divisions between Jews and Muslims, Freedom is developing a project for which he doesn’t yet have a name.
“I am going to create the biggest basketball school in the world,” he told JNS. “We are going to bring every Abrahamic religion together.”
Freedom, who was born Enes Kanter in Switzerland, is of Turkish descent. A harsh critic of the Turkish and Chinese governments, he is a vocal supporter of Israel. He changed his last name to Freedom in 2021. He last played for the Boston Celtics in the 2021-22 season.
Freedom envisions that his basketball schools, which he plans to launch in 2025 across America, will bring teenage players to Israel and the United Arab Emirates and will form teams of Jewish, Christian and Muslim players.
He plans to locate the schools in areas with the highest levels of antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry.
He told JNS that he observed a Palestinian girl enter an interfaith camp with antisemitic attitudes. After a week of playing with Jewish teammates, she apologized and said she “just didn’t know enough,” Freedom said.
On stage at the StandWithUS dinner, Freedom announced his plans as a keynote speaker. “This is the first time I’m actually telling you all this,” he said. “My plan is to bring all the Abrahamic religions together to open up basketball schools all around the world and bring Christians, Muslims and Jews together to play basketball.”
“I already started because I’m talking to schools, and we started talking to the mosques and temples and churches and stuff,” he said. “They’re very interested because there is a huge potential.”
Freedom specified schools in Los Angeles, New Jersey, Jerusalem and Berlin, in particular.
The project’s secret sauce will be that “they’re gonna learn from each other,” he said. “It’s a team sport. They have to communicate or they’re going to lose the game,” he said. “So it’s an amazing initiative. I’m really excited about it.”