Mayor Trent Staggs Presents Mayor's Freedom Award to Enes Kanter Freedom

Mayor Trent Staggs presented Enes Kanter Freedom with the inaugural Mayor's Freedom Award  on Wednesday, April 12, 2023.

Mayor Trent Staggs
Welcome, everybody, to our beautiful city of Riverton and welcome Enes here today. We're so honored to have you here. We have a lot of other dignitaries here with us in the room, members of our city council, other legislators, other mayors. We have Congressman Owens here with us, as well. We appreciate everybody coming out.

We're really excited today. I've got a mayoral proclamation that we're naming today, April 12th, 2023, as Enes Freedom Day in Riverton, Utah. This is also our inaugural freedom award, the Mayor's Freedom Award. And it's named after Enes.

I’ve got to tell you, I've been a fan of Enes for several years. I know he started his career with the NBA here in Utah with the Jazz, and he was just a remarkable player to watch. I think he's left such an impression on not only the game of basketball, but also here with our state. I know that he's been very active the last couple of years, really standing up, being an advocate for free speech, and that is something that I really admire. I think it's incredibly inspiring, and that's really the basis of this award here today. Enes is a phenomenal athlete, yes. But it isn't his athletic prowess that we're here recognizing today. It's something that I think is even more impressive than his athletic ability, and that's his spirit and his dedication to freedom.

freedom-award-2023And unlike many pro basketball players today. Enes has chosen to use his God-given platform to raise awareness to these issues, not just here at home, but also across the globe. His unwavering commitment to free speech and speaking up on behalf of those that cannot speak for themselves is something that I find so incredibly inspiring and rare today.

Freedom of speech is the first and fundamental right that's protected to all of us in our Constitution in the Bill of Rights. Benjamin Franklin said that it's impossible to have public liberty without freedom of speech. There are several instances where Enes has stood up to tyranny. Enes knows how precious freedom is because he grew up in a country that doesn't have the freedoms that we enjoy.

The people of Turkey themselves are wonderful and kind. They are. Its government, on the other hand, is not. In Enes’ native country of Turkey, for example, Human rights abuses do happen, unfortunately, every day. And he hasn't been shy at all about raising awareness and criticizing his own country. I think he's taken on some really big opponents. It's a little bit unusual, perhaps, to use a David and Goliath comparison here with Enes, given his size, but he is truly taking on some Goliaths. Because of that, it's come at a personal cost for Enes standing up for free speech.

The Turkish government, unfortunately, has really targeted Enes and his family--he even has a $500,000 bounty on his head. We were speaking earlier and I just thought, what is this? I mean, it's something you would see maybe out of a movie, out of Star Wars or some fictional movie and not real life. He's actually got a bounty on his head. I mean, it's just remarkable. I also find it very impressive, his ability to stand up to China.

quoteWe have so many social justice warriors out there today. And I think that several players are all too eager to criticize injustices or perceived injustices in our country from 150 plus years ago. But they won't take a stand for actual slavery that's going on in China with organ harvesting, with all types of atrocities, of human rights atrocities. And that's a shame. That really is.

I say that there are several out there that are willing to take a knee, but too few are willing to take a stand. Enes is one of those that's willing to take a stand and actually stand up to this.

I think it's important for us here in America, for residents here in Riverton, to appreciate the freedom we have and how fragile it can be. Not only has Enes stood up and been censored by Turkey and China, but unfortunately, even in our own country by standing up to the abuses that have gone on in China.

I heard Enes say in an interview, “I don't care how much money or business or whatever is involved, I'm going to stand up for innocent people. I am going to stand up for innocent people.” And unfortunately, increasingly here in the U.S., under this false religion of wokeness, free speech sometimes has been labeled almost as blasphemy. It’s okay to speak out on certain issues. You're afforded a platform. You can speak out if you're talking about the right political agenda. But when you're not, far too often people get silenced. They get de-platformed and they're not able to speak freely, or their interests aren't able to be shared the way that they are with other points of view.

And so, I believe that Americans need to be educated on this, on this hypocrisy, really, that's occurred. The NBA has some $5 billion in China alone. And, again, by standing up and speaking out against these atrocities in China, Enes has been effectively sidelined. It’s come at a lot of personal cost to him and his family and also to his career, to his livelihood.

Here's somebody who I believe is only 30 years old, who's averaging a double-double the last season or two. I think he could play easily another five, six years. And yet, because of the stance he's taken and raising awareness on the abuses in China, he's been effectively sidelined. And that's unfortunate. I hope, however, that his efforts and his recognition here today will inspire more people to speak out.

I just want Enes to know that regardless of what the rest of the world does, Freedom, Enes Freedom, always has a home here in Riverton. And that's the basis of this award here today.

Enes, I'd like to invite you to come forward. I'd like to present you with the inaugural Mayor's Freedom Award and give you an opportunity to say a few words, too. Congratulations again, and thank you so much.

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