Morning Sports Update

Brad Stevens responded to Enes Freedom calling the Celtics ‘hypocrites’ over political statements

"It’s interesting, because I feel really good that we truly sat here and supported him and his right to express himself and his freedom of speech."

Brad Stevens Enes Freedom
Brad Stevens and Enes Freedom in 2020. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

The Celtics are in Charlotte to play the Hornets tonight at 7 p.m.

Also tonight, the Revolution host UNAM Pumas in the first leg of a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal matchup at 8 p.m.

Brad Stevens responded to Enes Freedom: After the recent decision by Celtics coaches to wear pins showing support for Ukraine, former Boston forward Enes Freedom — formerly Enes Kanter — called out the move on social media.

“Hypocrites!” Freedom tweeted, adding that he believed the team (and the NBA) has shown a double-standard in making political statements on behalf of human rights.

“Why is it okay to speak up about human rights violations there but not in other countries?” Freedom asked. “Is there not much profit from Russia?”

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Freedom specifically cited his decision to wear special shoes in 2021 that showed support for Taiwan as an example of the difference. Then a member of the Celtics, he claimed that the team did not support his choice.

“How is it fair when I wore shoes to bring awareness about human rights violations around the world, Celtics begged me to remove them and threatened to ban me,” Freedom wrote. “Celtics now wear Ukrainian flag pins.”

On Tuesday, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald spoke with Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens about the matter. Stevens offered a different version of events.

According to Stevens, the issue with Freedom’s shoes at the time was specific to a possible NBA uniform policy violation.

“Here’s exactly what happened,” Stevens told Murphy. “I was actually at home, and when he decided to wear the sneakers, there was some concern – and I didn’t even know until the end of the first quarter — that there was a potential uniform or dress code violation. I don’t know what was said – I can’t imagine that phrasing was said — but the question to me was what to do about Enes’ shoes.”

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“I said I think that he’s fine, and let me double check with the NBA to see if there’s any uniform violation,” Stevens continued. “Double-checked, fine, and he wore those the rest of the game and he wore whatever he wanted the rest of the year. It’s interesting, because I feel really good that we truly sat here and supported him and his right to express himself and his freedom of speech, and I even told him the next day that you know I’ve always done that.”

After the follow-up conversation, in which Stevens said he reaffirmed his support for Freedom but asked to be notified in advance the next time so he wouldn’t be “checking on these things in the middle of the first quarter from my couch at home,” the Celtics’ executive said there was no more discussion of it.

“We didn’t talk about anything after that, because we weren’t checking from that point forward. Wear whatever you want,” Stevens recalled.

Freedom was traded by Boston in February to Houston, who released him several days later. Freedom remains a free agent.

Stevens insisted that he thinks “Enes is a good guy” with a “good heart,” and that the decision to trade him was motivated more out of a desire to bring Daniel Theis back to the team.

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“When we decided to trade Enes, it was 1000 percent a basketball decision,” Stevens said. “Obviously the opportunity to bring Theis back with our defensive identity, and his mobility and the ability to play the way we wanted to as an eighth or ninth guy just made too much sense for us.”

Trivia: Enes Kanter was the third overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Kyrie Irving was the first overall pick that year. Who was the last pick in that year’s draft?

(Answer at the bottom).

Hint: He made two All-Star teams as a member of the Celtics.

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Trivia answer: Isaiah Thomas

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